The Search for Identity in What You Pawn I Will Redeem

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the story, “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie, the author describes Jackson’s notion of Identity by introducing himself as a homeless, middle-aged, alcoholic Indian man. When he describes his life before becoming homeless, he doesn’t glamorize about his past. Before talking about his life, Jackson finds his dead grandmother’s regalia which clarifies his components of his life that seems to drag him towards finding who he is. His life was very different from any other working-class males. He went to college, had jobs here and there, got married multiple times, has kids, but Jackson life changed when he went “crazy”. Jackson lets the reader know that he has been diagnosed with asocial disorder. Even though it seems like Jackson could be dangerous or violent, he clarifies that he has, “never hurt another human being, or at least, not physically (Sherman 1).” And is a, “boring heartbreaker, too (Sherman 1).” This shows who he is and he knows he has asocial disorder. He has never harmed anyone physically and we can imply from this that Jackson can control himself and he isn’t “crazy” as others say.

Jackson also says that he is a “boring heartbreaker” and we know from his earlier life that he has been into multiple relationships but he ended them all and disappeared. Also, Jackson isn’t afraid to be homeless. He actually says that his homeless-ness is one the best thing he is ever good at. Being homeless is an important part of his Identity because he has been homeless for a long time and has learned how to be trusted. For example, at the beginning of passage one he says, “I’ve made friends with restaurant and convenience-store managers who let me use their bathrooms…. I mean the employees’ bathrooms, the clean ones hidden…. (Sherman 1).” He proudly explains that he receives special treatments from restaurants and store managers who allow him to use their employee bathrooms. This makes Jackson to be different from other homeless Indians in Seattle because he is trustworthy and friendly. It isn’t common for restaurants and store managers to let a homeless person use their restrooms, especially their employee bathrooms which are way cleaner and private. As Jackson shows his individuality, he also introduces his Indian Identity. Throughout the story Jackson identifies himself has American Indian.

His view on what it means to be part of American Indian culture is shaped largely by his memories and experiences. However, he himself separates from other stereotypes used to describe Native Americans but use statements such as, “We Indians are great storytellers and liars and mythmakers,” and “we Indians have built-in-pawnshop radar (Sherman 2).” Jackson uses a tactic to define himself in his own terms. He says, “I’m not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless, because it’s my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks (Sherman 1).” This statement shows Jacksons view on the both group of people. This makes Jackson be apart from the mainstream white society. Jackson also says, “I am a strong man, and I know that silence is the best method of dealing with white folks (Sherman 2).” Speaking of Homeless Indians, Jackson also notes that “we have dreams and families (Sherman 2).” Homeless people are human too and they can still dream the same like any other person. Sherman does a great job in creating a character that is able to see himself as an individual man with great experiences and a member of large group. Jackson isn’t afraid to show who he is and is actually really passionate about his culture. From the beginning of the story till the end, Jackson was in search for his grandmother’s regalia but also his self-identity. Sherman does a great job in making Jackson distinguish from others in the story.

Throughout the story, Jacksons search for identity in his individuality is driven by the homelessness experience that not only represents who is but also the cultural states as well.

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