single car driving across the desert

This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

by Sherman Alexie
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In "This is What it Means to say Phoenix, Arizona," how does Sherman Alexie break the rules of the traditional plot structure?

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(Because this is a question about plot, I'm going to do a lot of summary and no quotes.)

Sherman Alexie's "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" is told in real narrative time and flashbacks. While the story progresses in a traditional plot structure (exposition ,...

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(Because this is a question about plot, I'm going to do a lot of summary and no quotes.)

Sherman Alexie's "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" is told in real narrative time and flashbacks. While the story progresses in a traditional plot structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), it is paired with non-chronological flashbacks that look at the boys' childhood and their relationship.

We can break this story into Story A, which follows along Victor's need to make it to Phoenix, Arizona to pick up his dead father's truck and the money he left in his savings account, and Story B, which is the real meat to the story in that it chronicles Victor's anger, both with his father and with Thomas, who represents Native American culture.

Story B is interesting because it does not follow chronology, instead it gives the positives and negatives of the boys' relationship. It starts with the boys at ten years old when they were friends on the Fourth of July, then jumps to the boys at fifteen, when Victor gets drunk and beats up Thomas. Then it goes back to the boys at twelve, when Victor steps in a wasp nest and Thomas helps save him, and then jumps to when Thomas jumps off a building and flies for a few seconds, causing the other boys to become a bit jealous. Finally, Story B ends with Thomas alone at school because no one wanted to be around him and his stories.

Coupling Story A with Story B allows Alexie to delve deeply into Victor's psyche and the pain his father caused him by leaving. It also demonstrates how Victor has rejected his culture and how the trip to Phoenix is one in which he can begin to re-learn what he has forgotten.

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