In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, according to Junior, there is one single reason why many Indian families are unhappy. What is it? How have the members of his own family been affected?
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For Junior, when he reads Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, he picks up on the first line of this famous novel which talks about unhappiness in families and he finds that he has to argue with Tolstoy's reasoning concerning the unhappiness of families. Tolstoy argued that every unhappy family is unique in terms of the reason for its unhappiness. Junior disagrees very strongly, as for him, the reason for unhappiness in all Indian families is the same, as the following quote explores:
Gordy gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn't know Indians. And he didn't know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reason: the fricking booze.
It is his father's drunkenness that causes so many problems for Junior, and for so many other Indian families this is a repeated pattern with the adults being alcoholics, causing massive misery for everyone concerned. As the novel shows, alcohol is responsible to a certain extent for the death of Junior's mother, his sister and his dad's best friend, Eugene.
The problem with Indians, as Junior comes to realise when he has his conversation with Mr. P, is that they have lost all hope and act as if they are victims. This is the central issue that determines their future and explains why so many of them, even those with massive potential, such as Junior's sister, settle for second best and make choices that mean they never fulfil the potential that they have in life. Note what Mr. P says to Junior:
All these kids have given up... All your friends. All the bullies. And their mothers and fathers have given up, too. And their grandparents gave up and their grandparents before them. And me and every other teacher here. We're all defeated.
What Mr. P identifies therefore is that all Indians have lost hope and have entered the ranks of the "defeated." They have "given up" on the world and "given up" on their dreams and trying to change their lives, and it is this that defines them and shapes their fate and their futures, creating a destiny that only very few Indians have enough courage to break free from.
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