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 does Mr. P say Rowdy likes to hurt people?

Quick answer:

Mr. P says Rowdy likes to hurt people because “he wants them to feel as bad as he does.”

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In Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Mr. P has an emotional talk with Junior. He tells him he has to leave the reservation forever. Junior is shocked at first, but Mr. P explains that the only thing the adults on the reservation are teaching children is to give up. Society outside of the reservation largely ignores the needs of Indigenous communities and as a result, there is a lack of hope and positivity on the reservation. Mr. P points to Rowdy as an example and says:

Your friend Rowdy, he’s given up. That’s why he likes to hurt people. He wants them to feel as bad as he does.

Mr. P also predicts that Rowdy will just get meaner as he grows up. Rowdy’s situation is understandable because he has a difficult life. He grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father and is trapped in a community without hope. He also has no one to teach him alternative outlets for expressing his frustration. He did, however, spend a lot of time at Junior’s house as a child, and the two of them became close. That is why Junior responds to Mr. P and says “He doesn’t hurt me.” But Mr. P explains,

He doesn’t hurt you because you’re the only good thing in his life. He doesn’t want to give that up. It’s the only thing he hasn’t given up.

This explanation makes Rowdy’s situation even more tragic because it shows that he does not want a life full of only anger and pain. But then when Junior leaves the reservation, readers see Rowdy becomes even angrier and cuts Junior off. He feels betrayed by Junior, because without him, he is alone in his misery on the reservation. Alexie uses Rowdy as an example of how many Indigenous children grow up to develop struggles with their mental health.

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