Sherman Alexie’s Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven: Comprehensive Analysis

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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven

The book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven is not so much a novel, but a collection of short stories. The stories in the book focus mainly around two boys growing up on the reservation, Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire. The stories told by Sherman Alexie are about the events and struggles the boys face growing up on the reservation. The stories told in this book are written about a Native American by a Native American, so the views and themes expressed in this book come from an Indians point of view, not the whites. The main character, Victor, is a fictionalized character of the writer Sherman Alexie himself. Through out the book there are numerous occasions of Victor, his family members and his friends being constantly drunk, struggles for survival, and countless numbers of the white race acting in superiority over Native Americans.

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Over the years Native Americans have acquired the reputation of being heavy drinkers. Sherman constantly tells of times throughout his life when alcohol has caused his love ones problems. When Europeans came to America, they saw that Natives could craft beautiful crafts, clothes, and pottery. To the Natives these items had sacred or utilitarian meanings to them, but to the Europeans, they saw these items as money. The Europeans began to trade whiskey to the Natives for their handcrafted masterpieces. In the end, the Europeans would end up with profit in their pockets and the natives would end up drunk with an empty bottle. This theme is reoccurring throughout Sherman’s stories. Native American heroes, unlike white heroes, live on indefinitely in the lives of Native Americans. Native heroes tend to be reborn into new stories and their legends live on for many generations. Sherman tells a story of how his reservation lost a great basketball hero, the reservation saw basketball heroes as a sort of savior. They lost the young basketball star to alcoholism, and Victor states, “I just can’t explain how much losing Julius Windmaker hurt us all.”(52) Julius not only hurt himself with his excessive drinking, but he hurt his relations with friends and family. I believe that Victor and the rest of the reservation was so hurt because Natives cherish relations and want to take care of each other. By Julius falling victim to alcohol the rest of the reservation felt defeat as well.

Native Americans have anyways had a fight for survival buried deep within their roots. Ever since the existence of the Europeans in America, Native Americans have to fight for their survival. The Europeans uprooted Indians from their land and forced them to move west, taking sacred and inherited land from them. Indian children were taken from their homes and shipped off to boarding schools. The whites forced the children to speak English, dress like whites, and not speak their native tongue. The whites hoped to take away the Indian’s identity by doing this. Natives were instilled with a drive to survive during this time. Sherman uses this theme in a few of his stories in his book. As a kid, Victor witnesses many fights between his parents that pained him. Even though their marriage was falling apart, Victor’s parents stay together through their struggles. Indian divorces have taken on many changes over the years. Before Europeans, wives would simply pack up and leave. I believe that the struggle for survival that Natives faced against the Europeans 100 years ago is why current day Indians have such a drive to survive today. Sherman believes that he finds marriages that are falling apart more painful and destructive today because “….Indians fight their way to the end, holding onto the last good thing, because our whole lives have to do with survival.” (32)

One more theme that I feel Sherman stressed throughout his book was how the whites act as the superior race over the Indians. Since the Europeans landed at America, they’ve been trying to eliminate the Indian race. There have been numerous tries by white people to limit the Indian race, even if it meant tricking the Natives. Sherman writes about how the doctor tied his aunt’s tubes without her knowing after she gave birth to her child. She thought she signed a paper that proved her Indian status for the BIA, but the hospital administrator lied and gave her a permission slip for the doctor to tie her tubes. However, Victor’s aunt was not the only victim to these crimes, white doctors everywhere did this to help limit the population of the Native American in America. Sherman later tells a story of a time when Victor’s parents got pulled over by a Washington state patrolman on the highway. The policeman was rude to his parents just because they were Native American. He threatened the Natives to accuse them of violations that they had not committed, but said it could all go away if they paid him enough. After Victors dad told the patrolman to ask his wife the question not him, the patrolman replied with “Don’t you even think about telling me what I should do.” (165) To me, his reply gave off a feeling that he felt disrespected by the Natives telling him what to do. The patrolman felt superior to the Natives and felt they had no right telling him what to do.

Sherman’s stories about his life through Victor take on many twists and turns as he struggles to make his way in a society that want him to fail. He tackled many themes in this book including how alcoholism has an impact on the whole Indian population through relations, the struggle the survive in a world that wants them to disappear, and how the white population feels that they are superior to the Native American race.

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