In "This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" by Alexie, why has Thomas evoked such dislike and hostility in Victor and others of the tribe?

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator in Sherman Alexie's "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" sums up the reservation's resentment for Thomas Builds-the Fire succinctly: "Thomas was a storyteller that nobody wanted to listen to. That’s like being a dentist in a town where everybody has false teeth."

According to the narrator, Thomas's storytelling, while a stereotypical Native American trait, isn't needed anymore on the reservation, where the dominant traditions are drinking and poverty. Instead, people look at Thomas in a negative way. After Thomas offers Victor help, Thomas goes home and remembers their relationship as boys, including the "little details, tears and scars, the bicycle they shared for a summer, so many stories."

Once the boys reached adolescence, the stories became a nuisance and Victor rejected Thomas. One day, Victor got drunk and "beat Thomas up for no reason at all." Ever since that day, Victor refused to hang out with Thomas and so did all the other boys at the tribal school because "Nobody wanted to be anywhere near him because of all those stories. Story after story." But the fact that no one listened to these stories didn't deter Thomas from telling them. 

Thomas's refusal to let go of the Indian storytelling tradition makes him an outcast on the reservation. It isn't until Victor accepts this trait and the tradition that they are able to come to an understanding of one another.

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