illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie
Start Free Trial

What is the climax of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Expert Answers

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

Due to the episodic nature of Sherman's novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian does not have a proper climax necessarily. Several bumps occur during Junior's coming of age journey. While Junior does not begin the story in an ideal place (he comes from a poor family), his...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Due to the episodic nature of Sherman's novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian does not have a proper climax necessarily. Several bumps occur during Junior's coming of age journey. While Junior does not begin the story in an ideal place (he comes from a poor family), his circumstances slowly become worse when he decides to go to the nearby white school rather than the reservation school. He loses the love of his best friend and the support of his tribe. His sister, Mary, elopes with a guy from another tribe and leaves the family. His grandmother is hit by a car and dies.

In the case of this novel, the climax could be considered the worst of these many blows—and if that is the case, then Mary's death in a trailer explosion is the contender. While Junior's loss of his grandmother is a hard blow, Mary's loss is even more traumatic, because she was young, talented, and had dreams for the future. Mary's death almost makes Junior give up on everything since it is so senseless and sudden, as well as representative of what white society expects will happen to all Native Americans (that they're all drunk and self-destructive, destined to amount to nothing, etc.). However, Junior recovers from the tragedy and does not allow his pain to drown his hopes and dreams. By the end of the novel, he has regained his friendship with Rowdy and brought his loved ones closer together.

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

The climax of a story is defined as the highest point of tension. This is the moment we read for, and it's a moment that changes the rest of the story or play in an irreconcilable way. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, there are multiple points of tension and life-changing moments for Junior and the reader. If I had to pick one moment, I would pick Mary's death.

While it can be argued that Junior's Grandmother's death is the climax, I would argue that Mary's death is the climax of the novel. If we look at it from a literary perspective, it's the last "wow" moment of the text. We've just seen Junior lose Eugene and his Grandmother on top of all the other conflict he's faced. Mary's death is the big moment that affects Junior and the reader in a way that the other deaths haven't. There is no one else for Junior to lose. He has lost the people that have always been on his side, the ones who have shown unconditional support. Mary's death is an emotional rock bottom.

Her death also leads to the falling action of the story which could be defined as the fight with Rowdy and the family's time at the graves of the dead. The time at the grave brings Junior's family together and the fight with Rowdy leads to the resolution of the story where all the loose ends are tied up. At the end, Junior and Rowdy reconcile their differences and become friends again. Rowdy accepts Junior for who he is and wants to be, and they play ball to close out the story.

Mary's death allows Junior to accept his life, his fate and bring the remaining people in his life together.

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

Sherman Alexie’s novel can be read as having several climactic moments rather than one major climax. One of the most significant climaxes comes when Junior’s grandmother dies. Up to that point, he has struggled with identity issues pertaining to his decision to attend a high school off the reservation. Most of the other teenagers disapproved of his decision, considering him a race traitor. During the basketball game between the two high schools, Junior regained some respect, even though he was on the opposing team, because he tried his best. Nevertheless, he is still largely ostracized by his peers.

Junior’s grandmother was a well-respected elder on the reservation as well as a powerful figure in his life. When she is killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the entire reservation community comes together in mourning and makes a massive showing at her funeral. The magnitude of his loss is evident to everyone, and the other community members realize that he needs the support of his people. His loss and grief provide the necessary reminder to the other reservation residents that he is still part of the community. In addition, a wealthy white man becomes an object of ridicule when he falsely claims to bring the grandmother’s valuable dance outfit. This tragedy and the unexpected comic relief both help re-embed him within the community, and from that point forward he is not ostracized.

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

The climax of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian occurs when Junior's sister Mary dies.  Junior has already lost his grandmother and his uncle Eugene, so the death of his sister makes him feel like all is lost.  During this chapter, Junior also loses Rowdy as a best friend.  In order to deal with the loss of Mary, people around Junior get drunk.  He hates it, so he leaves the reservation and goes to school.  He finds that the people there care for him and are concerned about his well-being.  They ask him how he is doing and Penelope cries for his loss.  At this moment, Junior feels like "every planet in [his] solar system has exploded." 

After this point, Junior reconciles with living on the reservation and seeing the beauty there.  He also regains a sense of pride in who he is.  In the end, he and Rowdy become friends again.  This is the falling action and resolution of the novel.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team