single car driving across the desert

This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

by Sherman Alexie

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What was Victor's relationship with Thomas?

In "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," Victor and Thomas are childhood friends who stopped being friends long ago. When they were fifteen, Victor beat Thomas savagely, and the two have not spoken since. Over the course of the story, they become closer, and Victor gives Thomas half his father's ashes. However, both men feel that they cannot really be friends as they were in childhood.

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At the beginning of "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," Victor and Thomas already have a long history together, having known each other since early childhood. When Thomas says that he wants to go with Victor to Phoenix, Victor replies that the two are not friends anymore. This is a reference to the fact that the two were close as children but drifted apart. Their friendship was definitively ended by a fistfight when they were fifteen years old, in which Victor, who was drunk, beat Thomas savagely and might have killed him if he had not been stopped.

This is the status of Victor and Thomas's relationship when they depart for Phoenix: childhood friends who ceased to be friends, fought violently, and have not spoken for years. The story of their trip together is largely the story of how they become closer and start to understand one another. This begins with Thomas offering to help Victor and continues as Victor apologizes to Thomas for beating him up. After this, their shared experiences bring them together, to the point at which Victor decides to give half his father's ashes to Thomas in a gesture of brotherhood and promises to listen to one of Thomas's stories. However, it remains unclear at the end of the story how close they will be, since Thomas still does not expect Victor to treat him well in front of other people, and Victor also feels that the two of them cannot truly be friends as they were before.

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