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What is a summary of Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians?

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jdeeman | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 11, 2012 at 6:30 PM via web

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What is a summary of Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 13, 2012 at 5:44 AM (Answer #1)

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In this collection of short stories, Alexie explicitly writes about the way in which the ideas Americans have about Indians have been formed and moulded through the many stereotypical figures of Indians that exist in American society and culture. Alexie challenges such narrow perceptions through depicting a range of American Indian characters, the majority of whom have left the tradtional Indian reservation behind them and live in mainstream society working in middle-class jobs. Alexie challenges such stereotypes by presenting these characters as enjoying their middle-class, mainstream American lives whilst at the same time being able to maintain some of the more positive aspects of being American Indian, such as modesty, their sense of humour, loyalty and the joy of living life.

Key to understanding these stories then is the way that Alexie forces his readers to confront and challenge the many stereotypes that they have of American Indians that are so prevalent in American society. In "Flight Patterns," for example, William, who is a high0flying executive, is described as having such a demanding job that he has to travel around the US quite a few times a month. Note what the text tells us about his identity:

Sure, he was an enrolled member of the Spokane Indian tribe, but he was also a fully recognized member of the notebook-computer tribe and the security-checkpoint tribe and the rental-car tribe.

Such dual identity is vital to the force of these stories: he is presenting American Indians as being able to embrace American culture and life whilst also holding on to what is best about their Native American heritage. The characters in these stories manage to retain pride and identity whilst also not becoming stereotypical characters.

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