As a Native American, the narrator in “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” suffers from a sense of alienation in an America where “he didn’t fit the profile.” This sense of alienation results in anger, which reveals itself through the narrator’s damaged relationships and overall sense of apathy.
The story begins with the Indian narrator wandering around Seattle after a break-up with his white girlfriend. He explains that he doesn’t know what he’s looking for and says he often feels like he’d “spent his whole life that way, looking for anything I recognized.” A few paragraphs later, he explains that despite knowing where he wants to be at times there are “none he was supposed to be.” The narrator makes several mentions of how this sense of not belonging because of his ethnicity has made him angry to the point of his girlfriend saying that’s the cause of their breakup.
The narrator finds his place of belonging when he returns to his Spokane reservation. After months of sitting around and doing nothing, not even looking at the job postings his mother circles for him, the narrator symbolically returns to his roots and begins playing basketball, something that helped forge his identity as a youth. He responds positively when he finds himself inferior to a white basketball player, while earlier in the story he took a liking to a white man who worked the late shift at 7-Eleven only because he felt superior to him. Immediately after his symbolic rebirth on the basketball court, the narrator wakes up the next morning and explains that he “woke up tired and hungry” and “drove to Spokane to get the job I wanted.”
This idea of alienation because he's Native American is a motif Alexie employs throughout many of his stories. Usually Alexie explores this motif using his Victor or Junior personas, but not always. His Indian protagonists often end up accepting their roles in America or the community by the story’s or novel’s end (see: “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian).