The Themes of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Sherman Alexie writes short stories in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven in a way that consistently incorporates the hardships and sad parts of the native American society and their extreme poverty. Today we will be talking about the themes that are incorporated in these hardships and sad parts. In The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, most of the stories in the book share similarities such as Love and hate, Resilience and Forgiveness.
Throughout the book, Alexie suggests that the most intense relationships often combine elements of both love and hate. He introduces the book – and this concept – in ‘Every Little Hurricane’ when Victor thinks of his uncles’ bloody fistfight as an expression of love. Norma and Jimmy Many Horses’ marriage is another example of this kind of conflicted relationship. They love each other deeply, but in ‘The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor’ Norma leaves Jimmy briefly because she cannot stand his non-caring/lighthearted attitude toward his cancer. Even though she still hates that he acts like this, Norma eventually returns to Jimmy because their love outweighs even the biggest flaws in their relationship.
We laughed a little more and then I asked her one more time, “Really, why’d you come back?” “Because someone needs to help you die the right way, ” she said. “And we both know that dying isn’t something you ever done before.” I had to agree with that. “And maybe, ” she said, “because making fry bread and helping people die are the last two things Indians are good at.” “Well, ” I said. “At least you’re good at one of them.” And we laughed.
This quote is part of the scene where Norma comes back after she left for a while and accepts that JImmy is like he is and there is nothing that is going to stop him. She realizes that it’s useless to leave and wait for him to die alone so she decides to stay and make the best of the time they have left together. Through this story, Alexie demonstrates that if love is true, it can overcome hate.
In each and every story in this book, the hardships of Native American life in the late 20th century are present and highly active. These include poverty, alcoholism, racism, and isolation from society outside one’s reservation. To others these would impact them heavily in some cases but, Alexie also shows that the inner strength and resilience that many Native Americans have helps tremendously with coping with these problems. In ‘Because My Father Always Said…’, he writes, ‘Indians were pretty much-born soldiers anyway. Don’t need a uniform to prove it’ (29). Alexie makes a similar point in ‘The First Annual All-Indian Horseshoe Pitch and Barbecue’. In that story, Victor plays a song by Béla Bartók at a reservation carnival; the narrator suggests that the audience identifies with the music because of its ‘beautiful dissonance and implied survival’ (146).
Forgiveness is a problematic concept in this book, and Alexie talks about it in different ways in different stories. He often depicts forgiveness as an important element allowing characters to relate to each other in ways they otherwise wouldn’t; it plays a prominent role in several stories including ‘Somebody Kept Saying Powwow’ and ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’. However, Alexie’s fiction is also preoccupied with communicating the Native American experience on a much bigger level, and he also talks about historical forgiveness in the book. Native Americans have been subjected to a variety of atrocities in recent history. Alexie also is less sure whether the interpersonal forgiveness of the Native American’s should be applied to their history. In ‘Imagining the Reservation’, he suggests that Native Americans can overcome their tragic history not necessarily by forgiving, but through the use of imagination and creativity to craft a better future.
Survival = Anger × Imagination. Imagination is the only weapon on the reservation. The reservation doesn’t sing anymore but the songs still hang in the air. Every molecule waits for a drumbeat; every element dreams lyrics. Today I am walking between water, two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, and the energy expelled is named Forgiveness.
This quote out of “Imagining the Reservation” shows that the reservation is not as it used to be and that currently in the reservation the only thing you can use to get forgive/survive is to imagine the future.
The story in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven contains consistent themes consisting of; Love and hate, Resilience and Forgiveness. This concludes this essay on the themes of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven. Hope you enjoyed and don’t forget to smash that like button.
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