In "Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian..." how does the ower of music relate to Alexie's idea of cultural realism?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Music is of course a central motif in this short story, and relates to the way in which Victor's father escaped from the grim reality of his situation and his issues but also the way in which Victor connects with his father and comes to understand his own identity even after his father has died. The repetition of how the music of Jimi Hendrix is played again and again in his father's drunken evening ritual shows how music symbolises escape to Victor's father as he seeks release from the difficulties he faces. This is something that is seen again when he buys a motorbike with a casette player so he can listen to music whilst also riding it. The reverence that Victor's father shows to Jimi Hendrix clearly establishes the power that music has in his life.

This is something that is shared by Victor himself, who finds in music the power to understand his father's position and also to understand his own identity as an Indian. Note what Victor says about how he used to play music on the evenings when he missed his father:

Usually I listened to the blues. Robet Johnson mostly. The first time I heard Robert Johnson sing I knew he understood what it meant to be Indian on the edge of the twenty-first century, even if he was black at the beginning of the twentieth. That must have been how my father felt when he heard Jimi Hendrix. When he stood there in the rain at Woodstock.

Music relates to cultural realism therefore by being a powerful way of expressing the discontent and issues faced by various groups in society who find themselves on the fringes of mainstream American life. Just as Jimi Hendrix was black and found it difficult to be accepted by society, so Victor and his father experience the same issue because of their ethnic origin. The music thus relates to this sense of being an outsider and the difficulties of their lives.