The characters have been generalized to emphasize on the importance of this cultural conflict. For example in the very beginning, the grave shift workers are described in the same way, whether they are Indians or Americans,“The graveyard shift worker in the Third Avenue 7-11 looked like they all do. Acne scars and a bad haircut, work pants that showed off his white socks, and those cheap black shoes that have no support.”The concept of assimilation also comes in that is the minorities try to adapt to the ways of the prevailing culture.
When the narrator goes in the store that is owned by the White grave shift worker, he is immediately tagged as a robber, because he is an Indian “… clerk … searching for some response that would reassure him that I was not an armed robber. He knew this dark skin and long black hair of mine was dangerous. I had potential.”The theme of conflict is described when the narrator goes to a posh area, by mistake and the rich ones call the police because he “didn’t fit the profile of the neighborhood”.
Moreover, the narrator also wants to tell the policeman that he did not equate or gel in the “profile of the country” but knows that it would be a reason for his troubles. The narrator constantly feels that he does not belong in this world. He cannot relate to anything. There is this continuous feeling of nothingness and as if everything has been lost. He says that there are times that he does not remember where he is and is lost. He drives for extended time periods to find something he can associate with but fails. He goes on to say that he feels as if his entire life has been spent looking for that something familiar.
In between the lines, we also see that the minorities are afraid to take a risk. They have accepted the cruel behavior because they think that nothing is ever going to change. They are not ready to stand up for themselves. For example, when they are playing basketball and there is a white kid ...
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If there is some sort of power imbalance between the two, the more dominant group can define the other in a negative manner. They can force a group to be the Other, outside and different. In a sense this is what has happened to Native American people over the centuries in North America.
Literary works often include characters that are in search of their identity. We find them chasing their identity, personal identity, racial identity and other identity. Characters strive for locating their identity. Sherman Alexie’s ‘The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven’, Tim O'Brien’s ‘The Things They Carried’, Tillie Olsen’s ‘I stand Here Ironing’, and Junot Diaz’s ‘How to date, a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie’ are examples of works where we see quest for identity.
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Sherman Alexie in the short story, “This is what it means to say Phoenix”, Arizona” and the movie “Smoke Signals” portrays an image of the real life led by Indians in the real life and work in a humorous manner, while trying to enlighten the reader against past held stereotypes of the Spokane identity.
Summary: Alexie's works are celebrated for their detailed descriptions of the psychology and environment of the reservation; the humor and wit that are displayed in the face of the intense poverty and the ravages of alcohol abuse that are part of reservation life; and their broad, universal messages of hope and perseverance.
Taking a closer view at the movie Smoke signals, there is a lot of shifting from the theme especially in terms of character and the environment of action which is not in any way different from the “McLintock of Douglas in