What would be the theme for "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"?
Any number of themes are possible but one of the stronger themes in this Sherman Alexie story is that of family and tribal identity.
Victor's journey to Arizona to retrieve the remains of his deceased father is a personal journey, a family journey, and also a tribal journey. And because of this journey, he grows to know more about himself, his father, Thomas, and his tribe. Victor was always one to run from his past, to run from those elements in his life that caused him grief or uncomfort. This journey forces him to face many of the very things he has avoided all of his life. It is a coming-of-age story, certainly, but it is much more than that; it is a story of transformation of a self-absorbed individual into a reflective, more conscientious member of a family and a tribe.
The story centers around Victor whom he hadn’t had a close relationship with in years, only talked to him over the phone once or twice. Victor has this genetic pain, which was soon to be “as real and immediate as a broken bone.” This story is a about pain on a personal level but also a personal pain and the conflict someone may have within themselves because of broken relationships and crises of self identity. Although Victor had a problematic relation with his father, as well as with Thomas, part of their trip to Arizona involves Thomas flashbacks with Victor’s father and telling other stories.