The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

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What is the meaning of the chapter "The Trials of Thomas Builds-the-Fire"?

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Blaze Bergstrom eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this story, Sherman Alexie constructs an absurdist courtroom that serves as a microcosm of all the travesties of justice that have characterized legal proceedings against Native Americans. While Franz Kafka's The Trial provides one model for his overall approach in this story, Alexie does not simply transport Kafka's situation from Czechoslovakia to the Western United States. Rather, he elaborates some of Kafka's themes into a distinctly Native American framework.

Significant similarities are the flimsy nature of the charges, which often do not correspond to contemporary reality. Kafka's Joseph K does not even know what he was charged with, and he cannot find the courtroom where the proceedings should be conducted. Rather, after his arrest, every location and every experience he goes through is somehow connected to his ambiguous legal status. Thomas also faces charges for incidents that occurred decades before his birth: his presumed "guilt" is that of all native peoples. Although the...

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