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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

by Sherman Alexie

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In Sherman Alexie's book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which stories discuss the impact of poverty and oppression on relationships within marginalized communities? 

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Sherman Alexie's book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is full of stories concerning the impact of poverty on relationships. One is the very first story, "Every Little Hurricane," in which he poetically describes that one affect of poverty is alcoholism, and alcoholism breeds violence.

As the young narrator Victor describes, the Indians on the Spokane Reservation, like his father, were so consumed with worries from poverty, especially the worry of how to feed their families, that they turned to alcohol to forget their worries. Even young Victor knew the dangers of alcohol on an empty stomach, as we can see based on his description of observing his father: "Victor could hear that near-poison fall, then hit, flesh and blood, nerve and vein." Young Victor further narrates that such alcoholism breeds violence, just like the fight between his two uncles, Adolph and Arnold, one year at his parents' New Year's Eve party. Their fight was so violent and full of hatred that he likens the fight to a full-force hurricane. But Victor further observes that the storm isn't just inside of and between his uncles; it's inside of and shared between all of the Indians on the reservation, showing us just how severely poverty and oppression is affecting their relationships.

Though Arnold and Adolph stop fighting and go back into the house with "arms linked," their storm has not truly died, and all Indians at the party are fully aware that the storm has not died. The storm is now giving all of the Indians a "painful memory," such as the time Victor's grandfather was "spit on" while waiting at a bus stop in Spokane. For Adolph and Arnold, one memory that caused their storm concerns the fact that they had to hide "crackers in their shared bedroom so they would have something to eat."

All in all, Alexie's story informs his readers that poverty and oppression creates painful memories, which drive the oppressed to alcohol. Plus, the alcohol and the painful memories burst out in episodes of violence that drive wedges in the relationships between the Indians.

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