In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Arnold Spirit, Jr. was fortunate to have a number of mentors and positive role models that supported him along his journey to maturity, including some of his friends, family members, and friends of family members. Some of these people included Grandmother Spirit, Roger, Gordy, and Coach They were very helpful to Arnold, a person born with too much cerebral fluid in his brain, in a harsh society filled with poverty, alcoholism, and violence.
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Grandmother Spirit was a positive role model because she understood things that others sometimes could not understand, like why Arnold transferred from Wellpinit High School to Reardan. She helped him get a new friend, even in a weird way. Once, when Arnold was being bullied by Roger, a huge senior on the basketball team, Arnold punched him because it was in his rulebook of fisticuffs. Roger was surprised that Arnold punched him. That made Arnold end up being respected by Roger. Another positive role model of Grandmother Spirit was that she was that “she always approached each new experience and person the same way” (Alexie 155). Whenever Arnold’s family went to Spokane with his grandma, she would talk to anyone, even the lonely and homeless people that were talking to invisible people. According to Grandmother Spirit, the whole point of life was to meet new people. She went to lots of powwows and met lots of people, there. She loved everyone and even wanted to forgive the person who ran her over in the car crash, which eventually killed her. She was a very loving and supportive grandma.
Another positive role model of Arnold was Roger, a senior at Reardan High School, even though they met in a weird way. Roger ended up bullying him, and when Arnold retaliated, Roger was surprised and started respecting him. He even admired Arnold’s dad’s best friend, Eugene, and his cool bike as they drove by to school one morning. Also, at the Winter Formal, when, Arnold had no money, Roger was able to help cover expenses that Arnold couldn’t pay when they went out to a pancake house with Penelope, Arnold’s girlfriend. Roger was also a star on the basketball team, along with Arnold. At the end of the year, Roger gave Arnold his basketball uniform to Arnold and said, “You’re going to be a star,” to him (227).
Another huge influence on Arnold was his future friend, a book worm named Gordy. Gordy stood up for him, though he didn’t intend to when Mr. Dodge, a fake science teacher, was giving a false lecture on petrified wood and Arnold contradicted his statement. Mr. Dodge thought that petrified wood started out as wood and turned into rocks and minerals. But really, as Arnold stated, petrified wood was just replaced by them. Gordy reinforced Arnold’s statement, which lead up to them becoming good friends. Gordy taught Arnold an effective method of how to study and how to read. Gordy was the smartest person in the school. He read every book that he read three times, so that he could really understand it for its currents, history, and words. He got very excited reading books. He also told Arnold that getting work done feels good. As a result, Arnold ended up with a GPA of 3.67 in his report card. Arnold, one of the smartest students in the class became even smarter with the advice and study help from Gordy.
Another one of the Arnold’s mentors was his basketball coach. He was a good mentor because he was very supportive. He realized that Arnold was a very good shooter from the Wellpinit reservation. This translated to him being a very good shooter at Reardan High School as they were the top-ranked team in their league, going into the playoffs. He paid Arnold a compliment, saying that he was one of the best shooters on their team, and that he’d never met anyone more committed than him. He quoted former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, saying that “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” after a disastrous first game against Arnold’s former school and unsportsmanlike fans (148). He also spent the night with Arnold, giving him company in the lonely hospital room after Arnold suffered a concussion while playing against his former friend, Rowdy, who was now his enemy. Also, Arnold needed three stitches because a Wellpinit fan threw a quarter at Arnold’s forehead because he saw Arnold as a traitor, since he left Wellpinit for Reardan. The Welpinit fan and many other Welpinit Indians didn’t know the reason that Arnold transferred. Arnold transferred to Reardan because otherwise, he would have gotten killed. After a disastrous first game, the Reardan High School basketball team won twelve straight games, leading up to their rematch against Wellpinit. In the rematch, Arnold blocked Rowdy’s dunk and scored three points off the turnover, the opening points for Reardan, as they took a 3-0 lead. The gym went wild. The coach had helped turn Arnold into a star as he held Rowdy to only four points in the game, when in all other games, Rowdy scored in double figures. That game essentially changed Rowdy’s life too because Rowdy and Arnold became friends again.
Indeed, Arnold was fortunate to have a number of mentors and positive role models that supported him along his journey to maturity. Grandmother Spirit, Roger, Gordy, and Coach were very helpful and supportive to Arnold in a harsh society filled with poverty, alcoholism, and violence. All of these mentors supported Arnold’s goals and helped him succeed in and out of school, while adjusting to a new place.
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