Expert Answers
teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 2014, this young adult novel topped the list for the most banned and challenged books in the United States. Despite the book's reputation for offensive language, frank discussions of sexuality, and depictions of bullying, Alexie's use of language is practical rather than ornamental.

You asked about Junior's view of the word 'faggot.' This word comes up in the chapter detailing Junior's victorious play in the basketball game between the Wellpinit Redskins and the Reardan Indians. During this game, Junior is tasked with shadowing Rowdy, his basketball arch-enemy. When our young protagonist manages to side-step Rowdy's usual play every inch of the way, the gym breaks out into pandemonium.

Junior's initial three point score so intimidates and demoralizes the other team that the Reardan Indians are able to score a devastating victory. The Wellpinit Redskins fail to make the playoffs for the season, while the Reardan Indians qualify for the playoffs as state-reigning champions.

Junior apologizes for Reardan's victory in an email to Rowdy, but Rowdy laughs it off with some bravado. He tells Junior that his team will beat Junior's team next year, and when that happens, Junior will cry inconsolably. Although both Rowdy and Junior appear to trade 'homophobic insults,' Junior isn't too broken up about this state of affairs. Ironically, the friendly, verbal fire restores Junior's spirits: this exchange marks the first occasion Rowdy has actually communicated with Junior since he(Junior) left the reservation. If you recall, Junior's mother warned him that many Indians would not understand his decision to attend a school outside the reservation.

When Junior admitted his desire to transfer, Rowdy had become very angry. Reardan, after all, was the ultimate high school enemy. They won every baseball and basketball game they played against Wellpinit Junior High. If you recall, Rowdy uses the same homophobic insult to express his pain regarding his best friend's decision to leave. Even worse, he beats Junior up before they part ways.

So, what is different about this email exchange, where the same insults are being used? In this exchange, Rowdy is no longer angry. He doesn't resort to physical violence, and he doesn't condemn Junior for having been on the winning side of the basketball season.

The traded insults between Junior and Reardan represent a typically masculine exchange prevalent among high school boys. In their reluctance to appear effeminate, such an exchange may represent one of the only ways these young men can communicate forgiveness, affection, and trust. In times of great stress, the insults also express repressed pain and grief (as when Junior first informs Rowdy about his transfer to Reardan). It is this raw and unvarnished picture of adolescent camaraderie which makes a reading of Alexie's novel an emotional experience.

 

 

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question