The Otherness of Victor and Thomas Builds-a-FireI would like to get into a discussion with someone about the otherness of Victor and Thomas. I hope I can spark a fire with what I have to say.......

The Otherness of Victor and Thomas Builds-a-Fire

I would like to get into a discussion with someone about the otherness of Victor and Thomas. I hope I can spark a fire with what I have to say....

The first sentence that strikes me in this story is "and the rest of his family didn't have any use at all for him". His family doesn't have a very high opinion of him.

Then, he asks the council for help. Their response is very condescending. They begin their response with "Now, Victor", like they're are taking him to task for something. Could it be because his father left and the council is passing judgement? Then the suggestion of borrowing from someone else or driving. Obvious options that Victor probably would have taken if there was any chance but as Victor points out nobody has any money or cars to loan.

I get the feeling that Victor would like to tell them to keep their dirty money but a hundred dollars is a hundred more than nothing.

Thomas is even more of an other than Victor. He hears thing nobody else hears. He talks to cars and dogs. It seems that Victor would like to be friends again with Thomas but he is afraid of what the others will think. Yet he does take a chance and allow Thomas to go with him to Phoenix.

It seems there are degrees of otherness. The indians themselves are others "It ain't like it was our independence everybody was fighting for". Then Victor is an other because his father left and Thomas is even more other because he talks to dogs and cars and hears things in the wind.

 

Asked on by ladykat357

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brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

How about the way in which Alexie presents the otherness of Indian identity, that in some ways, coming to terms with the fact that, as a Native American, Victor is not only a minority, but one that has been devalued and marginalized by America, society, and tragically even by some tribal members as well.

Many of Alexie's stories, I feel, are about the life journey and struggle of natives trying to deal with that often depressing reality.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

One point of otherness relates to Victor and Thomas. After a specific incident, Thomas became an "other" to Victor. The incident was when Victor suddenly attacked Thomas, beating him viciously. It was then that Thomas became an "other" to Victor, and it was then that Thomas stopped receiving new stories. This is why Thomas tells the same "old stories"; this is why no one wants to "listen anymore": Thomas's link to stories, which is tribal and universal wisdom and knowledge, was beaten dry by Victor's attack and abandonment of their bond; their bond of respect; their bond within the traditions of their tribe. Becoming an "other" to Victor severed part of Thomas's tribal connection, which made him an "other" to the tribe as well. Since part of their tribal bond was encompassed in their bond with each other as members of the tribe, when Thomas became an "other" by being victimized, Victor also became an "other" in the tribe by his act of betrayal and brutality. This dynamic can be seen to account for at least some of Victor's "otherness" with the counsel as well.

ladykat357's profile pic

ladykat357 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

One point of otherness relates to Victor and Thomas. After a specific incident, Thomas became an "other" to Victor. The incident was when Victor suddenly attacked Thomas, beating him viciously. It was then that Thomas became an "other" to Victor, and it was then that Thomas stopped receiving new stories. This is why Thomas tells the same "old stories"; this is why no one wants to "listen anymore": Thomas's link to stories, which is tribal and universal wisdom and knowledge, was beaten dry by Victor's attack and abandonment of their bond; their bond of respect; their bond within the traditions of their tribe. Becoming an "other" to Victor severed part of Thomas's tribal connection, which made him an "other" to the tribe as well. Since part of their tribal bond was encompassed in their bond with each other as members of the tribe, when Thomas became an "other" by being victimized, Victor also became an "other" in the tribe by his act of betrayal and brutality. This dynamic can be seen to account for at least some of Victor's "otherness" with the counsel as well.

I think that Thomas was an other before the beating. He told stories. He predicted that Victor's dad would leave. He said he could fly and flew off the roof. The beating seems more like the final straw.

Also, Victor and Thomas are cousins. Thomas' mom died in childbirth (she left him). Victor's dad left. They are family and there is the 'loss' connection.

The council is condescending towards Victor, but do you really think its due to the beating? or is it something more, like Victors dad leaving. The councils position being 'he abandoned the family therefore he is not worthy of being brought back to the reservation'.

I think on some level that Victor respects Thomas like when Thomas 'flew' for that brief moment. On the otherhand he hates him for being right in his prediction that Victors father would leave.

Victors grateful that Thomas has the money to help him get to Phoenix yet at the same time he is resentful that he has to take Thomas with him.

Thomas represents the old ways; the oral tradition; family. Victor needs this but not so much that he is willing to become more of an other and be friends with Thomas.

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