How do the obstacles in the beginning of Sherman Alexie's The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian compare with the obstacles in the end of the book? How does Junior overcome them?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Sherman Alexie's The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the first obstacles protagonist Junior faces are somewhat temporary as they involve fulfilling one's desires and acceptance. In contrast, the obstacles Junior faces by the end of the novel are ones he will have to deal with his whole life; however, through undertaking attending Reardan, he certainly gained a great deal of bravery needed to help him face these obstacles.

In the beginning of the novel, Junior is fed up with impoverished life on the reservation. What disgusts him the most is lack of educational opportunities. He realizes just how much his school on the reservation lacks when he sees that his geometry book used to belong to his mother and is, therefore, 30 years older than he is. Junior recognizes that life off the reservation can provide one with far more opportunities to advance in life than the opportunities the Indians on the reservation have, which are no opportunities at all. With the encouragement of his geometry teacher Mr. P, Junior decides he wants to start attending high school at the richer white kids' school 22 miles from the reservation. It can be said that Junior overcomes his obstacle of lack of education by pursuing education on his own. However, attending Reardan brings new obstacles.

At Reardan, Junior must overcome the obstacle of acceptance, which he achieves by standing up to the campus alpha male, Roger, and earning his respect; making friends with the beautiful Penelope through their mutual loneliness, aspirations, and care for those disadvantaged; making study friends with the smartest kid in school, who is also a social outcast, Gordy; and making the school's basketball team.

However, the above obstacles were relatively easy to overcome in comparison to the obstacles Junior will face his whole life that become clear by the end of the book. The greatest obstacle concerns Junior's awareness that the most significant factor keeping the people of his tribe from advancing out of poverty is alcoholism, and alcoholism is a direct result of being oppressed by the white people. These two problems will always remain with Junior, and he will always see the effects of these two problems. One of the most heartbreaking effects of alcoholism and oppression is death, such as the death of Junior's father's best friend Eugene and of Junior's older sister. As Junior phrases it in chapter 28, Junior cried for the death of his sister and for his whole tribe because he "knew five or ten or fifteen more Spokanes would die during the next year, and that most of them would die because of booze."

However, Junior has done the best thing he can to cope with his situation--he has left the reservation. Though he can't help feeling like a traitor for leaving, by the end of the novel, he knows leaving is the right thing to do since he doesn't just belong to the tribe of the Spokanes, he belongs to the "tribe of American immigrants"; to the "tribe of basketball players"; to the "tribe of cartoonists"; to the "tribe of teenage boys"; and to so many other tribes (ch. 28).

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