“War Dances” by Sherman Alexi has a theme about the patrimony of the Native American Indian culture and the narrator’s struggle in relation to that identity. This story shows the perspective of the narrator and what it means to be human. He struggles with his dad dying a “natural Indian death” from alcohol and diabetes just as he learns that he himself may have a brain tumor.
In the story “War Dances” the narrator portrays the life of an American Indian who has lost his father, “my father, a part-time blue-collar, worker, dies of full-time alcoholism in March 2003.” (Page 611) He also is dealing with a mysterious brain tumor that he concerns himself with death. “I had to stare at a tombstone with my name on it” (Page611). The narrator is pessimistic with the idea of death, his father’s death, and now maybe himself. In the story he travels through a lonely hospital in search of a blanket for his father who is cold, but instead runs into an ...view middle of the document...
But in actuality he concerns himself too much with death and the meaning of life. Even with this depression and worry, Alexi the author perfectly ties in sarcasm and humor to this skepticism.
In the story when the narrator was in search for a third blanket- due to his father still being cold- he bumped into a Native Indian. After a casual conversation the narrator makes a stereotypical statement about Indians having blankets. In response the other man says, “You’re stereotyping you own damn people” in the way the narrator figures the Indians should have blankets (Page 607). In agreement the narrator follows him [the Native] up to his sisters hospital room to be greeted by the other mans father. The father is a type of shaman in the sense that he has been dancing around and singing in search of the sister’s unborn baby’s nature for a proper blessed name. In reaction the narrator is skeptical of the actuality within this old man’s beliefs but portrays hope in the power of the healing song he sings for the narrator’s sick father. “I felt like an ass, accepting the blanket and the old man’s god wishes… But maybe the old man did have some power, some real medicine, because he peeked into my brain” (Page 607). He further expresses his awareness that these actions would not bring back his father’s health but it was, “good enough” (Page 608).
Alexi allows the reader to understand the point of view of the narrator with the events of him and his father’s memory at the hospital. But at the end of the story the narrator goes through the moment that the doctor says, “Frankly…your brain is beautiful” (Page 620). So he proceeds to inform his wife and family that he is “O.K.” (Page 620). But he is faced with the reality that not one of them would respond the way his drunk father would and laugh.
“War Dances” is a story about the American Indian culture and the narrator’s identity within the culture. I perceive the end of the story with the narrator being content and not so stressed. Just because you are a Native American Indian does not indicate that dying a “natural Indian death” is your destiny. The narrator comes to this conclusion with the appreciation of his struggles.