How does Alexie use the setting to amplify the symbolism in "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" ?  

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The setting of this story is actually based around the shared companionship of Thomas and Victor as they go to collect Victor's father's ashes. There is no unity of setting, just as their is no chronological unity, as they are constantly travelling and spend very little time at Victor's father's caravan. The changing setting, though, helps identify the symbolism of the ashes as a connection between past and present and as a tribal bond that Victor, in so many ways, is trying to run away from and refuses to accept. Note the way that his friendship with Thomas is given as a symbol of his difficulty in accepting the tribal bond. After Thomas talks to Victor about the way that Victor and his friends always make fun of him, Victor has the following thoughts:

Victor was ashamed of himself. Whatever happened to the tribal ties, the sense of community? The only real thing he shared with anybody was a bottle and broken dreams. He owed Thomas something, anything.

Victor thus comes to realise how disconnected he is from his identity and tribal community, and the ever-changing setting as they travel to Arizona and back helps to indicate this through the importance of the stories that Thomas and Victor share and how they very firmly collect them to a specific identity and community.

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