Sherman Alexie’s Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven: Book Review
In current society, people are always telling others to improve upon themselves and to contribute to society. This happens to everyone, regardless of their status in society. In The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, Alexie wrote about Native Americans living lives in current society. By being members of society, they also had to face the pressure exerted upon them by society; this included the pressure for them to contribute to society more. Through the techniques of repetition and syntax, Alexie described the life Native Americans had to go through while enduring the constant demands of society.
Alexie repeated the word “imagine” or some form of it multiple times to emphasize a contradiction. In one way, he stated “[i]magine a song stronger than penicillin” (153). He also repeated imagine multiple times in this form, but all of the situations associated with this were fantastical. On the other hand, Alexie questioned, “How do we imagine a new life when a pocketful of quarters weighs our possibilities down” (152), as if it was not possible to even imagine a new life. The imaginations associated with this were also actually realistic. The contradiction in here was that Alexie questioned the reader or society how they expect Native Americans to be able to imagine, but right after saying that, Alexie wrote about being able to imagine fantastical things. This contradiction was present to emphasize the fact that society had too many expectations for Native Americans, and Native Americans themselves already had their own life that they wanted to live. The overload of expectations was shown by the questioning of the reader and society, while the fact that Native Americans have their own way of life was described by the imagination of fantastical things, such as songs stronger than penicillin and water that can heal broken bones. This revealed that Native Americans always have to endure society’s demands, such as their demands for them to have a new life. However, this was also not very possible, because there were no opportunities, as described by the pocketful of quarters weighing down their possibilities. The pocketful of quarters could be a symbol for something not very useful that slows one down because of their weight, as compared to bills of money, which are actually worth more and very light. Because of many situations that drown Native American’s opportunities, they cannot actually rise and contribute to society. Their only other option was to endure society’s accusations and to, at the same time, imagine scenes that were part of their dreams and not society’s wishes.
Alexie also used a technique of syntax by questioning the reader multiple times about Native Americans’ way of life. For example, he asked, “Would the Indians still be sprawled around the one-room apartment in the cable television reservation?” (149) and “Does every Indian depend on Hollywood for a twentieth-century vision?” (151). These questions seemed to fit the responses of society questioning Native Americans about their lack of participation in society. The first question was a response to society by saying if there had been a difference in historical events, they might be contributing towards a society that did not just place them in a “one-room apartment” in a reservation. The second question was a response to society to get Native Americans to assimilate to American life. This question assumeed that American life includes Hollywood visions and set images for people to try to become. By questioning this fact of Hollywood, Alexie emphasized that Native Americans did not need to assimilate, because they had their own way of life and their own wishes and imagination. They wish that they do not have to be around a dilapidated one-room apartment and that they do not have to follow the set images and stereotypes of society. This also illustrated the way of life that Native Americans had to go through. They had to repeatedly endure society’s questioning of why they were in the state they were in. The counterargument to this in another question form is that there could have been other possibilities if history was different, because Native Americans might have been able to keep their land and benefit from it.
Syntax is also used in a different way; Alexie describes how a Native American child told some other Native Americans false facts to mock them. In each sentence, Alexie chose to write “the Indian child told” (151) in order to emphasize that there was a lot of telling and commands used. Alexie could have used other words to describe what the Native American child said. He could have even just described how the Native American child was mocking them. However, he used the word told because he had to emphasize that many Native Americans had to live through the false facts and stories that others told them. There was nothing to counter this. In fact, the false facts and stories would just make matters worse because they remind Native Americans of their past. In addition to that, the word told also implies command and authority. This shows that Native Americans had to live through the command of others and endure it.
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