In "This is What it Means to say Phoenix Arizona", how Victor and Thomas serve as foils while adapting to living in two cultures? At least 3 examples on how they are different from each other.

Expert Answers
missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Victor is the "cool" Indian. He understands how to be stoic and has a great capacity to feel sorry for himself because he is Indian and the white people have stolen the Indians' land.

Thomas loves being an Indian, he's funny and he's traditional. He likes to tell stories like the old stereotypical Indian. This passage illustrates each of these features of the boys:

Thomas Builds-the-Fire had known that Victor's father was going to leave, knew it before anyone. Now Victor stood in the Trading Post with a one-hundred-dollar check in his hand, wondering if Thomas knew that Victor's father was dead, if he knew what was going to happen next.

Just then Thomas looked at Victor, smiled, and walked over to him. "Victor, I'm sorry about your father," Thomas said.

"How did you know about it?" Victor asked.

"I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. Also, your mother was just in here crying."

"Oh," Victor said and looked around the Trading Post. All the other Indians stared, surprised that Victor was even talking to Thomas. Nobody talked to Thomas because he told the same damn stories over and over again. Victor was embarassed, but he thought that Thomas might be able to help him. Victor felt a sudden need for tradition.

This passage demonstrates their difference but it also shows how in trying to deal with the fact that he didn't have enough money, Victor changed and began to accept Thomas because there might be a way Thomas could help.

As they encounter society, they run into Cathy, a gymnast on the plane. Their worlds collide as Cathy knows so little about their culture and they have varying views about talking to white people.

This conversation soon begins to show each of their character's main traits, and we also begin to see these traits compliment each other:

"Hey," she asked. "You two are Indian, right?"

"Full-blood," Victor said.

"Not me," Thomas said. "I'm half magician on my mother's side and half clown on my father's...

The three of them talked for the duration of the flight. Cathy the gymnast complained about the government, how they screwed the 1980 Olympic team by boycotting.

"Sounds like you all got a lot in common with Indians," Thomas said.

Upon returning to the reservation, Victor realized how nice Thomas had been and how their differences really made for a quality trip. Thomas had indeed helped Victor. Throughout this passage, you should find a little more to demonstrate that they are foils of each other and that it made the struggle into the white world worthwhile for them both:

Victor knew that Thomas would remain the crazy storyteller who talked to dogs and cars, who listened to the wind and pine trees. Victor knew that he couldn't really be friends with Thomas, even after all that had happened. It was cruel but it was real. As real as the ashes, as Victor's father, sitting behind the seats.

"I know how it is," Thomas said. "I know you ain't going to treat me any better than you did before. I know your friends would give you too much shit about it."

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.

"Listen," Victor said and handed Thomas the cardboard box which contained half of his father. "I want you to have this."


Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question