Arnold dreams of getting an education and being successful.
Arnold comments that his parents had dreams of being educated and self-sufficient, but “we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams” (p. 13). Arnold wants to become something, because his parents could not.
When Arnold sees his mother’s name in the geometry book, and he realizes that it is older than he is, it hits him that he can never amount to anything if he stays on the reservation.
My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud. What do you do when the world has declared nuclear war on you? (Ch 4, p. 31)
Arnold is so upset that he throws the book, accidentally hitting his math teacher. He gets suspended from school. He breaks his teacher’s nose. Yet Mr. P comes and tells him he is sorry. He explains that Arnold’s sister is the smartest kid he ever taught, and she wanted to be a writer. Arnold realizes that she had dreams too. He tells Arnold to leave the reservation for good.
Mr. P explains that the only thing the kids are being taught is how to give up.
“…All these kids have given up. All your friends. All their mothers and fathers have given up too. And their grandparents gave up and their grandparents before them. And me and every other teacher here. We’re all defeated….” (Ch 5, p. 42)
Mr. P. tells him he has to go find hope, or he will die. He asks where hope is, and the old man tells him he has to find it off the reservation. He is smart, and he can accomplish something. So he decides to leave.