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Explain the importance of the past as a theme in the story "This Is What It Means to...

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liriano3 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 2, 2010 at 1:10 AM via web

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Explain the importance of the past as a theme in the story "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted December 2, 2010 at 1:22 AM (Answer #1)

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Sherman Alexie's short story "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" concerns two characters reflecting upon and reevaluating their past histories and experiences. When Victor's father dies, Victor and Thomas travel from their reservation in Washington to Phoenix to retrieve the ashes of Victor's departed father. The journey offers Victor and Thomas--who are not necessarily friends and who growing up had a fair amount of animosity between them--an opportunity to get to know one another better and make some amends for their previous behavior. Additionally, Thomas and Victor also both reflect upon their own familial relationships and Thomas commiserates with Victor on the loss of a parent.

The story is an exploration of that very human experience of life causing an individual to reflect and see his or her world and past in a new light. Victor and Thomas both come away from the experience as changed men. They are not suddenly best friends and it is not suggested that their journey has solved all of the problems between them, but the reader does sense that they both are now more adept at seeing the world through each others eyes and understanding better the struggles and challenges each faces into the future.

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