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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How does Junior's personality develop or change over the course of the novel?

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Arnold/Junior changes in a variety of ways throughout the book, and that makes him a dynamic character. His opinions about people change a great deal. Readers should look to how his relationship with Rowdy changes throughout the book; however, Junior's biggest change is how he sees himself. At the beginning...

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of the novel, Junior doesn't see himself in much of a positive light at all. He sees himself as a kid with brain issues. He sees himself as brown, not white, and therefore hopeless.

"Come on, I said. "Who has the most hope?"

"White people," my parents said at the same time.

Junior also sees himself as poor, and as a consequence, he sees himself as stupid and ugly.

It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it.

These feelings about being Native American, stupid, ugly, poor, and hopeless are part of the reason that he decides to go to a school off of the reservation. It is even at the encouragement of a teacher.

"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more pope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation."

The move to the new school doesn't fix everything right away, either. Junior isn't immediately embraced by the rich white kids, and he is now shunned by the people on the reservation for leaving. Essentially, Junior feels like an outsider on all sides, but that changes completely by the end of the book. Junior embraces being a nomad, and his friend Rowdy also gives his support. Junior is now able to see himself differently. Instead of being apart from and outside of many groups, he now sees himself as belonging to many different groups. That gives him hope.

I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.

And to the tribe of cartoonists.

And to the tribe of chronic masturbators.

And the tribe of teenage boys.

And the tribe of small-town kids.

And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.

And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.

And the tribe of poverty.

And the tribe of funeral goers.

And the tribe of beloved sons.

And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.

It was a huge realization.

And that's when I knew that I was going to be okay.

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Junior's character is not static, it is very much dynamic. He is constantly changing for the better, and as he gains experience, he gains maturity. From the beginning of the novel to the end, we see Junior lose some of his innocence, bitterness, and fear.

At the beginning of the story Junior is somewhat immature. He clearly hates his life on the reservation, but if there is one thing he hates more than the Indians who torment him, it is white people. He does not trust them and he is generally afraid of them. From the white dentist who doesn't give enough Novocaine, to the white teachers who are either "liberal, white, vegetarian do-gooders" or "conservative, white missionary saviors" (30). He only has one friend, and their friendship is probably largely rooted in the fact that no one else likes either one of them. He is very emotionally close to his family.

In just one year, Junior experiences several things that change him greatly. First and most important, he attends Reardan High, which is an all white school off the reservation. There, he meets kids like Penelope, Roger, and Gordy, who earn his trust through their kindness. He learns to stop hiding who he is, which is a very smart but also very poor Indian kid. He is a star on the Varsity basketball team, and must play against his former high school and best friend. In front of his entire reservation, he plays his heart out and wins for Reardan. All of these things lead to a temporary loss of his best friend Rowdy.

Other key events that take place over the course of the year are a sequence of surprising and tragic deaths that directly affect Junior. First, his grandmother is hit by a car and killed. Then, his father's best friend is shot and killed. Then, his sister dies in a fire. Junior experiences each of these losses, and mourns, and has a period where he is emotionally lost himself. But each of these result in him becoming even closer to the kids at his new school, and realizing that he has people other than his family who care about him. In all this he remarks about his own growth:

You probably think I've completely fallen in love with white people and that I don't see anything good in Indians.Well, that's false. (152)

By the end of the novel, Junior is a more mature, more emotionally stable, and a more secure teenager. He reunites with his friend Rowdy. He has lost a lot of his fear of the unknown and looks forward to another school year at the all white school. And as he reflects on the year, he is aware of how he has changed.

I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy, but I was not alone in my loneliness. (217)

He goes on to create an entire list of all the "tribes" he belongs to, which reveals that he has let go of many of his former grudges, fears, and prejudices, and is willing to make connections to people in other ways.

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A character changes as a result of the novel's events like behavior, appearance, personality. How did Junior change from beginning, middle, and end?

Over the course of the novel, Junior matures and begins to realize that he must overcome obstacles to achieve his dreams.  At the beginning of the novel, Junior introduces himself to the reader as an awkward teenager who is trapped in his life on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  After witnessing elements of life that hold back other Indians on the reservation (i.e. alcoholism, domestic abuse, poverty), Junior changes and decides that he wants his life to be different.  He is angry that the education on the reservation is not up to standard, so he decides to attend Reardan.  This decision, however, isolates Junior from others, especially Rowdy, who see him as wanting to be "better than" the others around him.  After his early days at Reardan, Junior questions whether or not he has made the right decision.  By the end of the novel, Junior has matured and has resolved to continue pursuing his dreams.  He has also learned the meaning of friendship and family, and even though he has lost important members of his family such as his grandmother and Mary, he reconnects with Rowdy.

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