single car driving across the desert

This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

by Sherman Alexie

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Why can’t Victor be friends with Thomas when they get back to the reservation in "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"?

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Victor can’t be friends with Thomas when they get back to the reservation because Thomas tells too many stories and isn’t well-liked.

In Sherman Alexie’s short story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona ,” Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire were friends once upon a time. The...

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Victor can’t be friends with Thomas when they get back to the reservation because Thomas tells too many stories and isn’t well-liked.

In Sherman Alexie’s short story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire were friends once upon a time. The story moves between the present and the past. The two aren’t friends in the present, but when they were younger, they were friends. As a kid, Victor wanted to hear Thomas’s stories. The short story includes a scene when ten-year-old Victor watches the Fourth of July celebration with Thomas. They both agree that it’s ironic that they celebrate the holiday. Then Victor asks Thomas to tell him a story.

Fast forward to the present day. Now, the stories aren’t comforting or nice but an irritation. People on the reservation, aside from Victor, don’t want to listen to the tales anymore. Yet, according to the narrator, Thomas keeps telling his stories “long after people had stopped listening.” This practice turns Thomas into an outcast. Victor doesn’t want to be associated with someone so derided. Thomas tells Victor that he understands the situation. “I know your friends would give you too much shit about it,” he says.

Thus, even after all Thomas has done to help Victor with his departed dad, Victor can’t be friends with Thomas because of his stories and what amounts to peer pressure. However, Victor promises to listen to one of Thomas’ stories sometime, which suggests a cordial relationship isn’t out of the question.

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