In Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," how is Jackson alienated from the community? How does he respond?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jackson is alienated from the community for many reasons. The first is that he is a Spokane Indian, an Interior Salish, who lives far from where he grew up. He went to Seattle twenty-three years ago, and, after flunking out of college and working some blue-collar jobs, he finds himself homeless, addicted to alcohol, and suffering from an undefined mental illness. His life involves wandering around the streets of Seattle and hanging out with other displaced Indians from other tribes.

In addition, he is alienated from his heritage. He finds powwow regalia that he believes once belonged to his grandmother now hanging in a pawn shop. Someone robbed her of her regalia 50 years before, which is symbolic of the way in which he feels disconnected from his grandmother and from his heritage. The fact that the regalia is now in a pawn shop shows how his heritage has been degraded and disrespected.

Jackson responds to his alienation mainly through passivity—drinking and being aimless. However, as the story goes on, he is motivated to find the money to buy back his grandmother's regalia, a sign that he is taking a more active route to connecting with his past and his heritage.

pnhancock eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," Jackson is alienated from his community in a number of ways. He is an Interior Salish Native American from Spokane who left his hometown for college, then dropped out and developed an undiagnosed mental illness that eventually resulted in his homelessness. He describes himself as invisible in Seattle because he is one of so many homeless Native American people. Additionally, the owner of the pawn shop in which he finds his grandmother's powwow regalia refuses to return it at first and argues that the police wouldn't help him due to disbelieving him. Jackson is thus physically alienated from his Salish community because he left for Seattle with no means of returning, and is an invisible, disrespected member of his local community due to his mental illness and homelessness. As a mentally ill alcoholic, he primarily responds to his alienation in the form of excessive drinking.

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What You Pawn I Will Redeem

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