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Concept of Chivalry in Sherman Alexie's What You Pawn I Will Redeem

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The definition of chivalry from dictionary.com is the sum of the ideal qualification of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. Another definition of chivalry is related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valor. It is often associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honor and courtly love.

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In the story “What You Pawn I will Redeem” the main character Jackson also known as Jackson-to-the-second-power whom is homeless finds his grandmothers memorabilia in a pawn store that Jackson and his friends happen to pass while walking around. In this story the idea of chivalry would be Jackson trying to get his grandmothers memorabilia back. Jackson is a homeless man but still at any means necessary, he is still trying to retrieve the memorabilia. Being homeless makes things a little more complicated because recently he does not have any money. The pawnbroker told him that he would sell it to him for nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Jackson starts out with five dollars and throughout the story he does gain some money by stealing his friend’s dollar bill out of his sock and then again when he wins some money. Even though Jackson does gain money throughout the story he continually spends the money he earns/steals/wins right away after he gets it. This is his pattern throughout the story and I believe that has something to do with him being homeless, he does not usually have money so when he gets it he eats which I don’t blame him there and other various acts including buying drinks for his fellow Indians. Still he wishes for his grandmothers memorabilia. By no means even if Jackson saved all the money he did have, he still would not have enough to buy it from the pawnbroker. I believe the chivalry in this story is that he keeps trying to get the memorabilia back. Native Americans are sensitive on their rituals and traditions and making outfits to dance for the rituals that they do is important to them. The outfits themselves say something about the family and their tribe. As Jackson said, his family put one single yellow bead on everything they made so that way the memorabilia could be identified back to his family. He kept to get the memorabilia back because the outfit was important and meant a lot to his grandmother. Family means a lot to Jackson as you can tell by reading the story.

Personally, I really admire Jackson even though he does not overcome his homelessness he does end up getting his grandmothers memorabilia back. I really enjoyed this story because of the pawnbroker was the kind of person that thought of all the possibilities that could have happened to Jackson while trying to earn money to get his grandmothers memorabilia back. I am not sure why the pawnbroker gave his grandmothers memorabilia back, I know that Jackson was honest but I think the pawnbroker was almost amused with Jackson and all the possibilities that could have happened in just one day.

On the other hand the chivalry in “I’m a Mad Dog Biting Myself for Sympathy” Erdrich’s main character and his girlfriend Dawn broke up some time ago for unknown reasons. Erdrich’s point of view would be that the toucan is a prize and he is trying to court Dawn and get her back to be a hero or a knight in shining armor. Even though he never makes it to Dawn that is exactly what is going through Erdrichs’ characters’ mind. The toucan might not mean anything to you and I but to him it means a whole lot more. I personally think that he is traveling so far and trying to away from the police that it also creates suspense. He never gets to Dawn to give her the toucan (prize) to be a hero; he actually loses the toucan in the middle of a police chase.

I understand him trying to get his girlfriend back by trying to be that knight in shining armor that every girl wants. At the same time I also wonder why a toucan but then I thought it was not about what he brought he was the fact that he stole it.

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