illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, compare life on the reservations to life in Reardan

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People in Reardan are mainly white, while the reservation is made up of Native American people. The people in Reardan have more privileges, including a school with new textbooks and a library full of books. The kids in Reardan have money in their pockets, and they don't face the same kinds of poverty and despair as people on the reservation. Their teachers nurture their dreams and encourage them in their studies (though the teachers do not always extend this sense of hope to Junior, who is Native American). In addition, people on the reservation tend to resort to physical fights to solve disputes, while this is not the established pattern in Reardan.

While Reardan is better off financially, it has its share of problems. For example, Penelope, whom Junior befriends, has bulimia, and the town is filled with racism toward Junior and Native Americans. Reardan is, however, more encouraging of the children who live there, unlike the reservation, where the parents face so much poverty and hopelessness that they are often unable to encourage their children.

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As Junior realises on his first day, Reardan is in every way the opposite of the reservation where he has grown up. As he gets out of his father's car, trembling with nerves, Junior is filled with a sense of his own inferiority. Even though this is clearly not accurate, nevertheless it does indicate the way in which for Junior, going to Reardan was like going to a different country with a different culture and different ways of doing things. Note how the following quote explores the totality of the difference between Reardan and the reservation:

Reardan was the opposite of the rez. It was the opposite of my family. It was the opposite of me. I didn't deserve to go there. I knew it; all of those kids knew it. Indians don't deserve shit.

The cartoon that is alongside this quote shows an average Reardan student alongside an average student from the reservation, and the wealth and luxury that the Reardan student is able to afford, and the hope and the promise of a bright future that they have, is contrasted strongly with the poverty and lack of opportunity that the student from the reservation has.

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