Andrew Moulton December 21, 2014 LIT 315 20
Century American Literature Southern New Hampshire University Jamie Marchant Literary Analysis Paper:
Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”
In an effort to represent the Native American Indian race in the contemporary era, Sherman Alexie uses a stylized conversational tone reminiscent of storytelling to define the importance of storytelling, secrets, and magic in his cultural heritage. Stories are vitally important to representing the beliefs and cultural heritage of Native American Indians, and in Sherman
“What You Pawn I Will Redeem”
, as well as his many vignettes, are presented as humorous, engaging, brutal, and honest as these are characteristics that mark Native American Indian storytelling.
“My grandfather just strolled into the house. He’d been there a thousand times. And his
brother and his girlfriend were drunk and beating on each other. And my grandfather stepped
between them… And for some reason my great
-uncle reached down, pulled my
grandfather’s pistol out of the holster, and shot him in the head.”
While this vignette
doesn’t demonstrate any of the humor
that many of the other vignettes rely upon, this one is exemplary for being engaging and brutal, and because
Jackson understands that he has a receptive audience in Officer Williams, it is honest. The tone is conversational; three out of the five sentences start with the
and all of the sentences are relatively simple constructions, suggestive of a storytell
diction and pacing. This particular vignette details the paradox of being held for a crime that one cannot comprehend.
-uncle killed his brother. He is jailed forever, and even attempting to
"What You Pawn I Will Redeem" begins with the line, "One day you have a home and the next you don't." It is a deceptively simple, almost glib statement, referring both to Jackson's literal homelessness, living on the streets of Seattle, as well as his cultural homelessness as a Spokane Indian. Jackson, like all Native Americans, is culturally connected to a history of dispossession, forced removal, and lost lands. In this way, Jackson's homelessness resonates throughout the story. It represents not only his material state, but his psychological and cultural states as well.
In some ways, Jackson's quest to reclaim his grandmother's stolen powwow regalia can be paralleled with the history of the Spokane tribe. Just as Jackson's grandmother's regalia was stolen and has become an item for purchase, the Spokane suffered centuries of exploitation at the hands of white settlers and the U.S. government. Before...
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