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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

author  Sherman Alexie

illustrator  Ellen Forney

type of work  Novel with illustrations

genre  Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel); autobiographical fiction; young adult fiction

language  English

time and place written  Early 2000s in and around Seattle, WA

date of first publication  2007

publisher  Little, Brown (Hachette)

narrator The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is narrated by Arnold Spirit, Jr. The novel unfolds like a diary, with each entry (except the first, which narrates Junior’s early childhood) narrated just after it is meant to have occurred.

point of view  Junior narrates the story in the first person, sticking closely to his own experiences, but he occasionally re-tells stories that have been told to him by others or includes his sister Mary’s messages. Junior mostly describes characters objectively (i.e. with physical and sensory details) but he does not hesitate to give his opinions about other people’s appearances and actions.

tone  Junior’s tone his humorous and sincere. He is not always a completely reliable narrator, but his unreliability is usually a result of youthful naiveté rather than malice.

setting (time)  Around 1980

setting (place)  The Spokane Indian Reservation and the town of Reardan in Washington state.

protagonist  Arnold Spirit, Jr.

major conflict  The major conflict of the novel is Junior’s struggle to find acceptance and belonging in two vastly different communities, the Spokane reservation and Reardan High.

rising action  Junior decides to leave the high school in the reservation town of Wellpinit and attend school in the neighboring white town of Reardan. Junior’s Indian friends feel betrayed and abandoned, while, at Reardan, Junior is treated like an unwelcome outsider.

climax  Junior experiences three tragic deaths in rapid succession, his grandmother, family friend, Eugene, and his sister Mary all die. For Junior, Mary’s death is the most traumatic.

falling action   As Junior’s family mourns the recent deaths of loved ones and Junior completes a successful first year at Reardan, the Spokane community seems to realize it has treated Junior unfairly, and Junior finds unsuspected support among the new friends he has made at Reardan.

themes  Individual Ambition versus Communal Obligation; Poverty and Privilege; Racism

motifs  Sports and Competition; Alcoholism; Physical Violence, Domestic Abuse, and Bullying

symbols  Oscar; Junior’s dad’s last $5; Turtle Lake

foreshadowing  When Junior is so insistent, early on, that he and Rowdy are inseparable—that Rowdy is closer to him than family—Junior’s insistence foreshadows the rift in his and Rowdy’s friendship. Junior’s good moods and high expectations—his excitement for geometry class, for example—usually foreshadow a negative turn of events—hitting Mr. P in the face with the textbook. Junior’s anxiety and fear—like that Mr. P will punish him or he won’t make the basketball team—are often followed by unsuspected positive events—Mr. P’s apologizing to Junior, Junior’s making varsity. Likewise, Mary’s overly-optimistic view of her depressing life in Montana foreshadows her coming, tragic death.