In "Indian Education" by Sherman Alexie, what does the line mean from eighth grade "There is more than one way to starve."?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This line means that both Indians on the reservation and the wealthier whites in the farm town where Alexie attends school in eighth grade are devoid of comfort and are suffering in many ways. Quite literally, both the Indians and the whites are starving, but for very different reasons.

Alexie's family is starving because his mom has to bring home food that is given out by the government and that is of such poor quality that even dogs, the author says, would not eat the beef. The girls at his white school are throwing up because of anorexia and bulimia, so they are starving for different reasons. Alexie says that they are "skinny from self-pity." It's ironic that people who have so much to eat don't appreciate it and make themselves throw up, while the Indians on the reservation are dying for food. Their starvation connects the Indians and whites and shows that they all suffer in different ways and to different degrees.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you take a look at the text of the eighth grade portion, Alexie's character was noticing girls at the "white school" he now attended worked so hard to keep skinny that they would starve themselves on purpose by being aneorexic. This intentional starving was for the purpose of looking skinny, not a healthy decision.

Then he commented on the Indian way of life on the reservation. He reported on the disgusting food choices offered. They had to stand in great lines to get their ration of really gross canned beef. Although they ate it, they felt sorry for themselves having to eat it.

Whereas the girls struggled with their self-image in terms of beauty, the young Indian boy struggled with his self-image in terms of identity within society, both among Native Americans and teens in normal junior high and high school settings. Both of these groups robbed themselves, starved themselves of truly living life to the fullest.

If you look at the end of each grade, Alexie reveals a truth about Native Americans for both the Native American and the other American to think about. I think this one here is insinuating that we all have struggles, we all have problems. That's where he gets the "There's more than one way" portion of the statement.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial