Of all the secondary characters in Part-Time Indian, Rowdy has the biggest impact on Junior. As in another one of Alexie's famous works, the screenplay for the film Smoke Signals, the two central characters are a Native nerd (an "indigenerd," as the slang term is now) and his best friend, who is also his worst bully.
Rowdy himself is abused at home by his father. At school, he alternately beats Junior and protects him from other bullies. Rowdy and Junior both learn from each other what it is to be Indian and Spokane. Both of them face a series of family tragedies—early deaths due to poverty and deprivation. Both of them also debate what it means to grow up Indian in a white-dominated, racist society.
Because Junior’s life changes drastically when he is in high school, the matter of “profound impact” can be assessed in two different ways.
The first person with a significant impact is Rowdy, Junior’s friend, whom Junior says is the most important person in his life. While Junior is...
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