What does the title The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" demonstrate?
The title The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven demonstrates that, despite the amicable depiction of the famous white lawman and his Indian sidekick, relationships between the two races are not that way in real life at all. Enotes explains,
"The Lone Ranger and Tonto are symbols for white and native-American identity, respectively. Their names are taken from a popular radio and television show of the 1950s in which a white man, the Lone Ranger, teams up with an Indian, Tonto, to battle evil in the old West".
In this and many images from popular culture, the white man and the Indian are represented as living and working side by side in harmony, with the white man the leader and more individually capable of the two, the Indian his inferior. In reality, the white man came to America as an imperialistic conqueror, taking over land the Indians had occupied first, and leaving them disenfranchised and oppressed. The stories in the book focus on a group of varied native-American characters who, with a sense of steadfast endurance and ironic humor, show what it is like to live, mired in poverty and alcoholism, stripped of their identity and "larger social purpose", yet unable and unwilling to adopt the culture of the imperialistic majority.
On the surface, the title The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven may refer to the conflict and fights between Victor Joseph and his white girlfriend. Victor Joseph and his girlfriend leave the reservation for Seattle. Victor finds work, but he drinks too much. The girlfriend confronts Victor, making the situation worse. The situation brings conflict to their relationship, and Victor decides to go back to the reservation.
Although the title may simply describe the conflict between Victor and his girlfriend, on a deeper level, the title may also describe the racial conflict that the narrator is exposed to in Seattle. He profiles customers at his workplace in order to preempt any potential theft at the store. The same is done to him when he drives through a middle-class neighborhood at night. He is pulled over and questioned. The heightened racial awareness gives him nightmares about being punished for having relations with a white woman. The fear forces him to leave Seattle.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto were fictional radio and television characters who fought crime in the West and who were part of popular culture. They were a rare example that represented an amicable relationship between whites and Native Americans. The Lone Ranger represents whites, while Tonto represents a Native American figure who fights alongside whites.
In this story, the title refers to Victor's relationship with his white girlfriend in Seattle. They often fight, and, in the end, Victor returns to the reservation. The title implies that whites and Native Americans are not compatible, as they are depicted in the Lone Ranger and Tonto stories. Instead, they fight, even in heaven. The other stories in this collection also involve conflict between Native Americans and the white world. For example, in "The Trial of Thomas-Builds-the-Fire," the main character discusses the way Native Americans have been mistreated by whites.