illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

Start Free Trial

Starting on page 6, "Why Chicken Means So Much to Me," Junior introduces a major antagonist in the lives of Native Americans. What is this antagonist and why is it so debilitating?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One major antagonist in the lives of Native Americans introduced in chapter six is poverty. Junior goes on to explain that "hunger is not the worst thing about being poor," by detailing the account of his sick dog. He needs to go to a vet, but Junior's family cannot afford it, and ultimately, Junior's father must shoot the dog to put it out of its misery.

This story is just a small glimpse into the lack of hope that Junior feels as a result of being poor. He describes how smart and talented his mother and father are, but that they gave up their dreams because of poverty. His mother, who has what he describes to be an almost photographic memory, should have gone to college. His father, a talented musician, ends up as a drunk. Likewise, he and his older sister are very smart. His sister is living in his parent's basement, wasting her talents "running away" from nothing. 

It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor... And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it (13).

Poverty, for Junior and his family, is debilitating because it is the main thing keeping everyone from feeling any sense of success or hope. It is a major difference between Native Americans and the white people and therefore a major point of hostility. It has prevented, career progression and the establishment of a better future for the next generation of Native Americans living on the reservation.

We reservation Indians don't get to realize our dreams...We're just poor. That's all we are (13).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team