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Why does Junior draw so many cartoons?

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barclayk | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 17, 2010 at 8:57 PM via web

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Why does Junior draw so many cartoons?

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ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:58 PM (Answer #1)

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The magic of Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is developed through the combination of humorous narration and child-like doodle-art.  Doodles, in a similar manner to words, reveal inner thoughts giving the reader an deeper understanding of the main character.

In the same way that dreams are understood to have meanings, doodles can also indicate what is going in the subconscious.


Alexie's main character, Junior, struggles for acceptance in both of his worlds: his native-american home and his all white school. Born with a defect requiring brain surgery, he faces physical impairments due to brain damage. Constantly teased and called a "retard", Junior seeks solace in his art, seeking the freedoms and deeper understanding that art brings.   Drawing cartoons surrounding issues of alcoholism, child abuse, and death, one can easily see a connection between the subject of his doodles and his purpose for doing so.  Junior himself shares with his reader that he draws

because words are too unpredictable...because words are too limited...but when you draw a picture everybody can understand it.

Sherman Alexie's main character seeks what everyone seeks, simply to understand the world and be understood by that world.  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM (Answer #2)

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The previous thoughts were well warranted.  The drawing could be seen as an attempt to bridge the awkward state of consciousness within which Junior is immersed.  Considering that from a racial or ethnic point of view, this is already present.  Being Native American as well as living in White society, there is a natural disconnect present between both worlds, a state of liminal presiding over all.  Add to this mixture the fact that he is an adolescent, and one has a frayed state of being in the world where disharmony and senselessness reigns supreme.  The drawing might be a way to bring some order into that which has disorder.  This might be due to the fact that Junior has power to create and to control the cartoons or doodles that he does, some aspect of empowerment in a world that doesn't quite feature much of it.

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 1, 2010 at 9:20 PM (Answer #3)

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In the first chapter of the novel, Junior says that he likes to draw because he can communicate through images what he cannot say in words.  He comments on the number of different languages that there are in the world  and says that drawing connects everyone because a picture looks the same to everyone no matter what language is being spoken.  It is understandable that Junior would feel this way because on the reservation he must reconcile the language of his tribe with English.  When Junior is having a tough time and wants to express himself, pictures are an easier and more universal way to do this than trying to find the words to match his feelings.

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