What You Pawn I Will Redeem Questions and Answers
by Sherman Alexie

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Who is Jackson and what does his quest symbolize?

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Jackson Jackson, the main character in Sherman Alexie's “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” is a homeless Native American—a self-proclaimed “Spokane Indian boy” who lives in Seattle. When Jackson happens upon his grandmother’s stolen powwow regalia in a pawn shop, he embarks on a quest to come up with $999 dollars to buy it back in the next twenty-four hours.

Throughout the story, Jackson repeatedly remarks on the hardships faced by Native Americans, referring to himself as “living proof of the horrible damage that Colonialism has done to us Skins.” From this perspective, we can understand the stolen regalia as representative of both material and cultural appropriation; Jackson’s attempt to regain it is an attempt to recover a cultural identity. We see this evidenced over the course of the 24 hours, such as when he sings “Indian songs” and ultimately dances with his grandmother.

To understand the symbolism of the quest, it is important to pay attention to the language...

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