“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Alexie

Literature is a rather specific matter for analysis and critical writing. First of all, to compose a critical analysis of a literary work it is necessary to be aware of basic literary principles and ideas, as well as understand the background of that work, and the impacts it might have on society, etc. Thus, critical writing becomes much more than a simple assessment of work, but rather a deep and comprehensive consideration of a piece of literature that is aimed at defining its main strong and weak points together with its major idea. The present paper will focus on the critical analysis of the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie to identify all the mentioned aspects in it and see its importance for modern society.

To begin with, it is necessary to consider briefly the plot of the book under consideration. First published in 2007, this work of literature won a lot of positive feedbacks from critics and admiring assessments from its ordinary readers. The author of this book, Sherman Alexie thus came to be the most successful and respected writer, novelist, poet, etc. creating his works while living with the inborn hydrocephalus: “I’m a highly successful hydro” (Williams, 2007). His works make their readers laugh and cry at the same moment. They also allow the writer to make readers think of serious issues, like illnesses or discrimination, while reading the simple story written in a comprehensive language understandable for everyone.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” itself is a story about a 14-year old Indian boy living in a reservation of Spokane but dreaming of better life and perspectives for the future of his family: “Like the character he created, Alexie dreamed of a better life.” (Williams, 2007). In many aspects, the book is autobiographical as Sherman Alexie has also experienced all the things he writes about in his book. Thus, for example, his protagonist suffers from hydrocephalus, lives in a reservation, and makes a brave step by leaving it for the school for white children. The author has gone this way in real life, and the book under consideration is thus his instrument of informing people of all the hardships that people with hydrocephalus face due to the prejudiced social attitude towards them.

Thus, Junior, the main character of Alexie’s book, has to go through numerous tortures, physical and moral, by his new schoolmates and tribespeople he betrayed, in order to take his place in the white world. This success is, however, connected with the topics of alcoholism, tragedy, deaths of close people and relatives, loss of friends, etc. Thus, the book under consideration is a rather catching matter for reading and thinking, but based on its belonging to the Y. A. literature and on its moral conflicts, it has its own strong and weak points.

To start with, it is necessary to consider the strong points of the book under consideration. First of all, the point that should be mentioned is the deeply analytical and psychological character of the book which contributes to its importance as a source of wakening public morals and understanding. In other words, in his book Sherman Alexie touches upon the most significant social problems typical of today’s mankind including tolerant treatment of people with various disabilities, impairments and other physical and moral problems, racial discrimination, and such purely social issues as poverty, alcoholism and so on. For example, when Junior decides to head for the school for whites, he understands that reality is much harsher than he can imagine, but the prominent question of his childhood leads him in his pursuit of a better life: “Who has the most hope?” (Alexie, 2007). Thus, the book directly at the improvement of the public attitudes towards those who differ from the majority, is its major strong point, especially in the context of the intended audience of the work which are people from 14 years up.

Moreover, the autobiographical character of the book is another advantage. In other words, the credibility of the work is largely increased when the readers know that the author knows what he writes about not from newspapers or stories told by others but from his personal experience. Thus, for instance, facing the necessity to choose between identities, the author and his character Junior were torn apart by their feelings and demands of the situation: “I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” (Alexie, 2007). Also, the topic of the brutality of children towards their disabled or partially impaired peers has been depicted brilliantly in the bookmaking the youngest readers change their position or at least think of it in a different context. However, even such tragic topics are treated by the author with humor and optimism which constitutes another strong point of his book: “…too much grease inside my skull, and it got all thick and muddy and disgusting, and it only mucked up the works.” (Alexie, 2007)

Further on, the book by Alexie displays the features of an optimistic world view such as orientation on the best in the future even despite the fact that the present is not rather bright. For example, the dark and difficult life of Junior has its own outlet in the field of cartooning for which Junior feels strong affection. They help him forget about his troubles and take him to the better world of his ideas: “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” (Alexie, 2007). By this, the author aims at supporting his readers in the most difficult situations in their lives, showing that there is always something or someone that can help you and keep you strong and focused. Nevertheless, besides the mentioned strengths, the book under consideration has its weak points, and their examination is necessary to create the full critical analysis of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”.

The weak points of the book under consideration are not so numerous, but they also need to be analyzed. To start with, the major point that was mentioned by critics in the book by Alexie was its uniform direction at the younger adults’ audience which deprives the book of a considerable part of its social importance. In other words, the book is written in the form of a tale which is OK for the young readers little over 14 but the grown-up people are confused while reading about such serious matters as life and death in the form of a tale for children. This point was widely criticized in the book by Alexie who has always claimed to be a writer for all age groups but not for children exclusively: “Wouldn’t you have rather won the National Book Award for an adult, serious work?” (Rabb, 2008). These words were typically addressed to Sherman Alexie by his acquaintances and friends, as well as critics, who did not see any artistic value in “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”.

Moreover, the somewhat idealistic picture of life created by the author in his book was also a matter of criticism. The life and deeds of Junior are depicted as ones that were doomed to succeed but real life does not always present people with such opportunities. Drawing from this, the picture of the world presented by Alexie can be misinterpreted by young readers and can lead them to numerous troubles in their adult lives. Thus, the weak points concern mainly the overall idea of the book and its possible influence upon people and social life. Nevertheless, compared to the strengths of the book mentioned above, they can not spoil the impression of this marvelous piece of literary art.

So, to conclude it is necessary to state that the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie is a valuable piece of work in the literature dealing with the vital topics for modern society including race, ethnicity, discrimination, and readiness to do everything to achieve one’s highest goals. The book is autobiographical, although the names of characters are changed, and this fact adds credibility to it being one of the advantages this book has. It also possesses weak points which, however, only emphasize the strong ideas and aims pursued by Sherman Alexie in his work.

Works Cited

  1. Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Little, Brown Young Readers, 2007.
  2. Rabb, Margo. “I’m Y.A., and I’m O.K.” Essay. 2008. The New York Times. Web.
  3. Williams, Sarah T.Man of many tribes” 2007. Star Tribune. Web.
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