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

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Why did Junior cry after defeating Wellpinit in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Quick answer:

Junior cries after beating the Wellpinit team because he feels he has betrayed his tribe.

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Initially, Junior is excited at the prospect of beating the Wellpinit basketball team. Having been ostracized by his tribe and shunned by his former best friend Rowdy (who is also a member of the Wellpinit basketball team), Junior wants to exact vengeance upon them all. Though the Wellpinit team brims with talent, the Reardan team wins, especially due to impressive actions from Junior on the court.

At first, Junior is elated by his win, but then a sober realization turns that joy to shame and guilt. The players on the Wellpinit team do not have the advantages of the Reardan players: they come from broken homes and do not always have a meal waiting for them at home. In addition to that, the Wellpinit team comes from an environment where hope is a rare and precious resource. This defeat will not be easily shrugged off.

Realizing he is not the underdog in this situation, but rather a bully punching down, Junior breaks down and weeps from the guilt, feeling he really has betrayed the Spokane Indian community this time around. Vengeance has only alienated him further from the people he loves. When the Reardan team later suffers a crushing loss, Junior feels it is only karma exacting its toll.

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