The cover of 'Blasphemy' by author Sherman Alexie. Consider "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," a story that reads like an upside down. In Sherman Alexie's short story “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”, the he did not meet the terms that were initially set by the pawn shop owner. Fiction by Sherman Alexie. “All right, Jackson Jackson,” the pawnbroker said. “ You . But you are the first American Indian I have ever met.”.
When he describes his life before becoming homeless, he does not romanticize his past. His life was not unlike other working-class American males, except that he went crazy, and has been homeless for six years.
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Before he tells the story of how he found and reclaimed his dead grandmother's powwow regalia, Jackson clarifies the elements of his life that seem to beg the most explanations. Of his mental illness, Jackson informs the reader that he has been diagnosed with asocial disorder, which sounds a bit as though he could be violent or dangerous.
He goes on to clarify that he has "never hurt another human being … physically," and is only a "boring heartbreaker," rather than a malicious "serial killer or something. He describes his homeless-ness as "probably the only thing [he's] ever been good at. He proudly explains the special treatment he receives from restaurant and store managers who allow him to use their employee bathrooms.
It makes him feel "truthworthy" and distinguished from other homeless Indians in Seattle. As Jackson emphasizes his individuality, he also introduces the notion of a collective Indian identity. Throughout the story, Jackson identifies himself as American Indian. His concept of what it means to be part of an indigenous culture is shaped largely by his own experiences and memories, as well as by popular stereotypes.
He sees himself as separate from the stereotypes often used to describe Native Americans, yet he underscores these designations with statements such as "we Indians are great storytellers," and "we Indians have built-in pawn-shop radar.
By setting himself apart from mainstream white society as both a homeless person and a Native AmericanJackson risks being seen as a stereotypical Indian. As a countermeasure, Jackson suggests his own, more flattering stereotype—that of the cautious or secretive Indian who refuses to be exploited by whites.
This tactic allows Jackson to define himself in his own terms, while nodding toward the historical basis for that decision.
When speaking of homeless Indians in Seattle, Jackson says that passersby largely ignore them, except to perhaps bear "a look of anger or disgust or even sadness at the terrible fate of the noble savage.
Here, Jackson acknowledges the common stereotype of the noble savage that has been used for centuries to stigmatize the American Indian, and he dismisses it. He has replaced the idea of the noble savage with the idea of dreams and families, in an attempt to allow for more compassion and humanity. It is important to Jackson to distance himself from negative images of Native Americans like the noble savage, yet a few lines later he declares, "we Indians are great storytellers and liars and mythmakers"—a statement that reinforces the idea that Native Americans can be discussed in terms of generalizations.
Stereotypes focus on identifying particular behaviors or traits often associated with a given race or culture. Jackson is a product of this sort of stereotyping.
But Alexie has created a character that is able to see himself both as an individual man with unique experiences, and as a member of a larger group.
Jackson allows himself to associate and belong within a wider framework of people who can identify themselves similarly, thereby finding validation for his own personal experiences. At the same time, he takes pains to assert his own individuality. Throughout the story, the reader sees Jackson's attempt to render his identity both in terms of his individual nature as well as in terms of his shared Native American experience without being reduced to a stereotype.
Ethnic Heritage In the story, Jackson Launches his quest after he sees his grandmother's traditional powwow costume in a pawnshop window. He must then loom before the pawnshop owner sells it to someone else. His Journey, both literally and symbolically, is a journey to reclaim his ethnic heritage. At the beginning of the story, Jackson has in many ways turned his back on his Spokane heritage. Most dramatically, he has moved away from the Spokane region to Seattle, even though his ancestors "have lived within a one-hundred-mile radius of Spokane, Washington, for at least ten thousand years.
His attempts to achieve this idealized lifestyle have met with utter failure. Over the course of the story, Jackson meets other Indians who have also strayed from their heritage and homelands in one way or another. Like Jackson, his friends Rose of Sharon and Junior have been drawn to Seattle from their ancestral homelands.
As the story progresses, both Rose of Sharon and Junior leave Seattle to different fates. Rose of Sharon returns to the reservation and lives with her sister, while Junior, who travels even farther from his Colville homeland to Portland, dies in an alley from exposure. One returns to her roots and survives; the other turns his back on his roots and dies.
Jackson also meets three Aleut fishermen who want nothing more than to go back home to Alaska; he later hears that they "waded into the saltwater near Dock 47 and disappeared.
He puts on the outfit and dances, feeling his grandmother's spirit within him. In this way, he once again embraces the history of his family and his tribe. For at least ten thousand years," Jackson notes in. Shortly after white settlers entered the Spokane country inWynecoop notes that initially "little else changed" beyond profitable fur trading and intermarriage between whites and Indians. However, he notes, the arrival of the Christian missionaries "had a more lasting influence than even the white man's guns," as the Native Americans were forced to convert and were made subject to church laws and governance.
With the acceptance of the white man's religion, Native Americans largely abandoned their traditional beliefs, which permanently altered their communities, traditions, and unique identities. InCongress passed the Donation Act, which released "non-settled" or Indian-occupied lands for white settlement. The law allowed any citizen to claim up to three hundred and twenty acres in the Oregon Territory, which included present-day Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Wyoming and Montana.
In order for Indians to retain claim of their land, they would have to sever any tribal affiliation and become American citizens. Most Native Americans refused this offer. Thousands of whites came to settle in the Oregon Territory, and many Indians were displaced from their homes.
Establishing the Spokane Reservation Tensions increased between the white settlers and the indigenous population in the Oregon Territory. On January 18,President Rutherford B. Hayes issued an executive order establishing the Spokane Indian Reservation. The area set aside for the reservation reduced what had once been Indian land by 80 percent, from over three million acres to just overacres.
The document states that a "tract of land, situated in Washington Territory, be, and the same is hereby, set aside and reserved for the use and occupancy of the Spokane Indians. They argued that the reservation land was not ideal for hunting and fishing purposes, and there was concern about the religious differences between the various cultures of Spokane.
The Upper and Middle bands came to an agreement with the U. Even after conceding to the demands of the government, the Spokane still had to deal with further encroachments by white settlers on their allotted territory. Wynecoop quotes a newspaper article that appeared in the Spokesman Review on November 10, The first of the new year will witness a general house cleaning of the Colville and Spokane Reservations.
All person [sic] who have no claim to allotment on these reservations will be required to leave the reservation and seek homes elsewhere.
This will greatly facilitate the work of allotment. A strain of Indian blood is a valuable asset at present, and it is wonderful how many white skins have turned red lately. As the article indicates, it was not uncommon at this time for whites to claim Native American ancestry for the sole purpose of acquiring land that had been allotted to the Spokane tribe.
These and similar acts have long since contributed to the erosion of the Spokane reservation lands, and reveal the historical basis for Jackson's comment in "What You Pawn I Will Redeem": Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks. The reservoir behind the dam covers reservation land once considered essential by the Colville and Spokane tribes.
Additionally, the dam prevents the natural migration of many spawning fish species such as salmon, an important food source for many reservation Indians. Since then, both tribes have actively pursued similar claims for " water power values," lost fisheries, financial losses, and additional compensation for general land usage.
Inthe Colville tribe received a lump sum of over fifty million dollars, as well as an agreement for millions of dollars in annual payments; nearly ten years later, when Alexie wrote "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," members of the Spokane tribe had yet to receive any additional compensation.
It is also part of Sherman Alexie's collection of short stories Ten Little Indians, published later that year. Henry Prize Juror's Favorite. Henry juror Ann Patchett remarks, "As I read [this story,] I was moved by sorrow, compassion, and joy. In some of the best, Alexie lends the bleak minutiae of the street an epic resonance … but with more laughs.
In the following excerpt, she examines the nature of Indian identity by exploring how duality is inscribed within the role of the "native informant" in Sherman Alexie's short story "What You Pawn I Will Redeem.
He does so with an unflinching sense of humor.
His stories navigate the often treacherous terrain of love, politics, human weakness, and failure. Yet, in his literary work he is most concerned with redefining the Native American experience, or as he prefers, the Indian experience, by establishing a new collective identity based on the individual lives and voices of the personae he creates.
As in the real world, Alexie's characters encounter their own "Indian-ness" both publicly and privately. Consequently, his characters must employ this "double consciousness" while constructing their identities.
These characters are endowed with Alexie's own awareness of the negative stereotypes associated with indigenous peoples, and they therefore respond, interrogate, and interact with the images most often used to describe them. The effect is a text peopled with characters who understand that they are indeed performing and fulfilling the role of "Indian" within the larger narrative beyond the page into our natural world.
This is certainly the case in Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," the story of Jackson Jackson's quest to retrieve his grandmother's powwow regalia found in a pawnshop fifty years after it was stolen. Jackson's desire to reconnect with what he feels is rightfully his is complicated by his financial instability. The complications that arise and what eventually follows allow the reader to witness Jackson's experiences while maintaining some cultural distance from him.
This distance epitomizes the overall concept of the native informant, which Alexie employs in "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" to reeducate his audience. One day you have a home and the next you don't, but I'm not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless, because it's my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks. This opening immediately draws attention to the distance between Jackson's and the reader's societal positions.
He is revealing an experience that is outside of the reader's own cultural context.
What You Pawn I Will Redeem | badz.info
This is established when the narrator references "you," the reader. He equates this exchange between himself and the reader to those that occur between the Indian and the "hungry white folks," who presumably want to obtain his "secret story. Jackson intends to tell his own story and is aware that by doing so, he prevents his own exploitation. Jackson goes on to explain that he is "a Spokane Indian boy, an Interior Salish," who "grew up in Spokane, moved to Seattle," and led a relatively normal life before going "crazy.
These details are important to understanding Jackson and his story, but they are not necessarily part of the plot. They allow communication between the characters within the story and the reader. Speaking directly to the reader throughout the story, Jackson educates or reeducates the reader by providing additional details that simultaneously reveal his own possibly erroneous cultural presumptions.
After clarifying the relative harmlessness of his condition, it is important for Jackson to establish his identity—to define both himself and the parameters of his story. The importance of this background is made clear by its position in the text—Alexie dedicates the first few pages of this short story to these details from Jackson's past.
Rather than accepting the terms others have used to define him, Jackson names himself a "crazy" "Spokane Indian," who after a life of "various blue- and bluer-collar jobs" finds himself homeless.
The Theme of Perseverance in What You Pawn I Will Redeem, a Short Story by Sherman Alexie
He establishes himself as both an indigent and a Spokane Indian because he feels that these two factors most succinctly summarize his experience while setting up the action of his story. Jackson insists that, "Being homeless is probably the only thing I've been good at" and that "homeless Indians are everywhere in Seattle," before he goes on to describe the peripheral nature of his existence by saying, "We're common and boring, and you walk right on by us, with maybe a look of anger or disgust or even sadness at the terrible fate of the noble savage.
Jackson represents himself as Indian while he performs the role of storyteller. This storytelling role is often associated with the popular stereotype of Indian-ness, which motivates his comment that "we Indians are great storytellers and liars and mythmakers.
Positionality and the Global Age," Shahnaz Khan notes that "Anthropologists identify the native informant as the person who translates [his or] her culture for the researcher, the outsider. I do not make any claims about producing authentic knowledge about [my] culture. Instead, I complicate the process of knowledge production and claim that you, the reader, can only know about my research … via an analysis of my own location [outside that culture].
Perhaps this is what Alexie is doing by creating a character who sees himself not only as a complex individual, but also as one who is performing a racial and cultural service for the reader. If the term "native informant" is applied to Jackson, then the readers must consider themselves to be "the researchers" or "the outsiders" that Khan refers to in her essay.
As outsiders, readers interact with the native informant as they might a tour guide. In this way, Jackson takes the reader on a tour of what it means to be an Indian—specifically, a homeless Spokane Indian in Seattle.
Therefore, the native informant in this story is a go-between for two cultures. He exists for the purpose of facilitating interaction between the "I" and the "Other" in pursuit of a mutual understanding. This dynamic—this exchange of information—is key to understanding the concept of the native informant. Joseph Jeyaraj adds to this definition of the native informant in his essay "Native Informants, Ethos, and Unsituated Rhetoric: Some Rhetorical Issues in Postcolonial Discourses. The distance this distinction creates makes the native informant separate, and therefore more valid than the native, who is consequently defined as such by a marked lack of utility.
The native informant is then perceived by the outsiders, as well as himself, as a valuable commodity. This objectification confers relevance, that is, a position of importance, within the new, postcolonial society.
Jeyaraj speculates to this effect saying, "It may be that there is an eliteness associated with the personal lives of postcolonial native informants. I've made friends with restaurant and convenience-store managers who let me use their bathrooms. I don't mean the public bathrooms either. I mean the employees' bathrooms, the clean ones hidden in the back of the kitchen or the pantry or the cooler. I know it sounds strange to be proud of, but it means a lot to me, being truthworthy [sic] enough to piss in somebody else's clean bathroom.
Maybe you don't understand the value of a clean bathroom, but I do. These details and others set Jackson apart from those who are not capable of interacting to this extent with outsiders. His ability to communicate a culturally sensitive story without fear of exploitation indicates that Jackson has been cast by Alexie in the role of native informant. Jackson and other native informants, as Jeyaraj describes it, "have a strong tendency to occupy these [roles] partly because these [roles] offer many perks and partly because there is [outside] pressure … to make them occupy these [roles].
The reader is in no position to disagree with Jackson, who has already established his narrative authority simply by distinguishing himself as separate from and speaking for the other Indians. These attempts to distinguish himself from or align himself with other Indians function as a means to divulge crucial information to the reader, who has now become the outsider Kahn mentions.
For instance, the term "skins" calls to mind the systematic exploitation, assimilation, and elimination of indigenous cultures in the Western Hemisphere as a direct result of European colonialism. By using this racial slur himself, Jackson alludes to its history without neutering or excusing the word itself. Through his journey Jackson comes across many people who help him achieve his goal. When the whites arrived in America, they isolated those native people by putting them in reservations, believing that they were just primitive horse-riding Indians.
The assimilation of Native Americans was the first step towards acculturation. The whites believed that if those Indians assimilate with them they will leave their culture behind and adopt the new one. Rachel Buffan associate professor of history at University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, differentiates between the two terms saying "It is important here to distinguish between assimilation, which denotes the gradual melting of different cultural groups into Americans, and acculturation, which signals the ongoing process of cultural adaptation and change" Buff From the very beginning of the conflict on land, the whites knew how to marginalize the Native Americans; first, by isolating them in reservations and secondby injecting their minds with the new culture and identity.
The reservations, in the mean time, also contain so many social and economical problems. They are full of homeless, jobless and alcoholic people. Alexie shoulders the responsibility of reviving the Native American culture and identity via his pen. Jackson represents all Native Americans who lost their culture and felt the sore of being alienated in their own homeland. Alexie tries to depict the circumstances a Native American faces in a place that is plagued with cultural denial, homelessness and other social and political matters.
It is the new generation who blames the old one for losing the land and culture and confirms at the same time that they will reclaim them no matter what it costs. The new generation is embodied in Jackson to show the will and determination to get back the lost heritage.
Although he is miserable, alcoholic and homeless, he focuses on his goal. This sentence explicitly exposes the state of homelessness that Jackson lives, as well as it implicitly exposes the cultural aspect of homelessness the Native Americans live as they are linked to an unfortunate past of cultural denial and stolen land property.
In this instance, Alexie questions the identity of those Native Americans and shows the effects of assimilation and acculturation. Native Americans are no longer able to specify who they are and to what tribe they belong.
This kind of generalization shows the terrible effects of assimilation that make Native Americans gradually forgetting their origins. It starts with considering themselves as Indians belonging to no specific tribe and ends with considering themselves as Americans with different color.
Alexie refers to Jackson miserable condition as the 4 condition of all Indians after the arrival of the colonizer. Jackson is poor, homeless and alcoholic as most of the Native Americans who live in the light of colonization.
Alexie might be pointing to the literal pawnshop radar due to the fact that Native Americans are poor, therefore, they always look for pawnshops to sell their stuffs to have money, or he metaphorically says that Indians have the sense of giving up their belongings by nature, it is something that is built in their souls as they gave up their land and culture.
As those were taken before somebody stole it from her, fifty years ago. As Jackson is not really sure that the regalia belongs to his grandmother, Native Americans also suffer from the blur image of their true culture and identity. Jackson enters the pawnshop with only five dollars and asks the pawnbroker to give him the regalia, but the pawnbroker refuses because he paid a thousand dollars for it.
The pawnbroker tells Jackson that he will give him the regalia if Jackson pays him nine hundred ninety nine dollars within twenty four hours. Jackson accepts the deal and starts his journey collecting the money. Through the journey, Jackson deals with different white people who help him in collecting the money.
This actually makes us wonder; why does Alexie present the whites as helpful and kind people?