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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Chapters 25-29 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 25: In Like a Lion

Buoyed by confidence and his amazing shooting skills, Junior becomes a freshman starter on the Reardan varsity basketball team, and he credits the high expectations set for him at Reardan with allowing him to reach his potential. After losing their first game to the reservation high school, Reardan has gone on to win twelve in a row. The next game will be a rematch against Wellpinit, and Junior admits that he wants revenge.

A local news crew comes out to interview Junior before the big game, and he tells them that he feels he has something to prove, “to the people in Reardan, the people in Wellpinit, and to [him]self.” Junior declares boldly that he will never surrender to anyone, in basketball or in life. Assigned by Coach to guard Rowdy in the game, he draws strength from Coach’s faith in him and from the presence of his father, who “may not [love him] perfectly but love[s] [him] as well as he [can].”

Junior plays his best game ever, stealing the ball from Rowdy just as he is about to dunk on the first play and setting the tone for the rest of the game. Reardan wins by forty points, humiliating Wellpinit, and as his team celebrates, Junior looks over at the reservation team standing quietly on their end of the court. He realizes that all the members of the Reardan team “[are] going to college . . . [have] their own cars . . . three pairs of blue jeans . . . and mothers and fathers who . . . [have] good jobs,” while most of the Wellpinit players live with drunken parents and might not have even had breakfast that morning; none of them is college bound. Ashamed that he had so desperately wanted to take revenge on Wellpinit, Junior retreats to the locker room and cries.

Chapter 26: Rowdy and I Have a Long and Serious Discussion About Basketball

A few days after the end of basketball season, Junior emails Rowdy and says he is sorry that Reardan had beaten Wellpinit so badly; Rowdy irreverently responds that Wellpinit will “kick [Reardan’s] asses next year.” Junior is encouraged, because the exchange is “a little bit friendly” and because Rowdy is actually talking to him, a notable occurrence since Junior left the rez.

Chapter 27: Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses

Junior observes that the biggest difference between Indians and white people is the number of deaths they experience. While a few of Junior’s friends at Reardan have lost a relative or two, Junior himself, by the age of fourteen, has been to forty-two funerals on the reservation, and the saddest thing about all these deaths is that ninety percent of them have occurred because of alcohol. Junior is especially bitter in recounting the extent to which alcohol has ruined Indian lives because of yet another tragedy which befalls his family, which is still reeling over the deaths of his grandmother and Eugene.

Junior is called out of class one morning by his guidance counselor, who tells him that his sister has died and that his father is coming to get him. Devastated, Junior insists on waiting for his father alone, outside in the snow. Suddenly overcome with terror that his father might get into a wreck on the icy roads, he has almost reached the point of panic when his father finally drives up. Junior jumps into the car with relief and, without knowing why, begins to laugh hysterically and is unable to stop until they reach the reservation border.

When Junior asks how Mary died, his father says that she and her husband had passed out in the back...

(This entire section contains 1906 words.)

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bedroom of their little trailer after a big party; the trailer had caught fire, and they had burned to death. In a weak attempt to console Junior, his father adds that, according to the police, Mary was too drunk to have known what was happening, but Junior, shocked by the dark irony that this should be good news, reacts again by “going absolutely insane with laughter.” Mercifully, unable to handle the intensity and pain of what has happened any longer, Junior’s body simply “check[s] out,” and he falls into a deep sleep.

When they arrive home, Junior sees that his father is crying and tells his father that he loves him. In the house, Junior’s mother, who has been lying curled in a ball on the couch, rises to slap him and makes him promise never to drink. Then she clings to him, crying, for hours.

Two days later, the family buries Mary; Junior, desolate, runs from the graveyard after the burial and crashes into Rowdy, who has been hiding in the woods watching the ceremony. Rowdy is crying, but Junior’s face is dry; he “can’t remember how to cry.” When Junior tries to comfort his friend, Rowdy accuses him of causing his sister’s death, and Junior realizes that Rowdy is right. Had he not gone to school at Reardan, his sister would not have gone to Montana; in his mind, he bears responsibility for Mary’s death.

The next morning, Junior returns to school because he doesn’t know what else to do. Visitors are still coming to the house, and Junior cannot accept the paradox that everyone will be honoring “the drunken death of a young married couple” by getting drunk. At school, “all sorts of boys and girls, and teachers” come up and hug him, acknowledging his grief. Junior realizes that the mutual suspicion that had existed between himself and the Reardan High School community has for the most part disappeared and has been replaced by genuine care and concern.

Chapter 28: Remembering

At the end of his freshman year, Junior goes with his parents to the cemetery to “celebrate with [their] dead.” Junior’s father tells him he is “crazy about [him],” and his mother adds that she is proud of him, which is “the best thing she could have said.” Junior is happy, but sad too, and he begins to cry, for his sister, for himself, and for his tribe. Junior reflects that reservations are meant to be prisons but that Indians seem to have forgotten that fact; he alone is “brave and crazy enough to leave the rez.” Destined to be “a lonely Indian boy,” Junior becomes aware that he is not alone in his loneliness, and, finding a sense of kinship with “millions of other Americans who [have] left their birthplaces in search of a dream,” knows he is going to be okay.

Chapter 29: Talking About Turtles

Home for the summer, Junior considers the natural beauty of the reservation and thinks of Rowdy, remembering a time a few years earlier when the two friends had climbed a tall tree near Turtle Lake and shared an hour or two of wonder and enchantment, looking over their world. Junior misses his friend and is surprised when Rowdy spontaneously walks into the house, declaring that he is “bored” as if nothing had changed between them. The two go out to shoot some hoops, and in a moment of quiet camaraderie, Junior asks Rowdy again to come to Reardan with him.

Rowdy responds by telling Junior about a book he has been reading which describes how old-time Indians used to be nomadic. He reflects that Indians, including himself, are not that way anymore; only Junior is still “an old-time nomad.” Rowdy says he had always known that Junior would leave the rez and that he is happy for him. Knowing that he will forever love and miss Rowdy, Junior asks if they will still know each other when they are old men, and Rowdy replies sagely, “Who knows anything?” Throwing aside his worries about the future, Junior plays one on one with Rowdy for hours, reveling in the moment and not keeping score.

Chapters 25–29 Analysis

Junior knows that if he stays on the rez, he will die, but leaving is not an easy thing. He is overcome by guilt because of the harassment his family must endure at the hands of Indians who feel he has betrayed them and because he knows how much they are sacrificing to make his venture possible. Even though his parents are not completely dependable in helping him with the daily forty-mile round-trip to Reardan, they do the best they can, putting aside a part of their meager resources so that they can buy gas to drive him on occasion and so that he can get lunch or new clothes so he will not feel completely out of place.

Junior is accused of bringing bad luck on his family through his defection, and, in the case of his sister, he feels responsible because, had he not shamed her by taking the first brave step to better his own life, she would not have gone and thus would not have died. It is admittedly consoling for Junior to know that his sister had a chance to live her dream for at least a little while because of his inspiration, but in the end, he still lives with a heavy burden not unlike survivor’s guilt. While he is confident that he is “going to be okay,” the knowledge that he is powerless to make things better for others whom he loves is an agonizing realization. Though he knows that leaving is necessary for his survival, he hopes and prays that he will someday forgive himself for leaving the reservation and the tribe that he loves.

Leaving the reservation is something that Junior must ultimately do alone. As Rowdy explains, most Indians, including himself, are no longer “nomadic”; they do not have it in them to leave a world which is desolate but familiar, in search of a better life in an alien environment. Junior, however, is different, “the only one with enough arrogance” to step out of the life he has known into a place where he must forge a new identity but where he will have the opportunity to succeed. Junior recognizes that, because of his quest, he will always be “a lonely Indian boy,” but he understands his commonality with millions of American immigrants before him who overcame loneliness to achieve their dreams. He himself is a Spokane Indian, but he is also many other things, including a cartoonist, a basketball player, a beloved son, and a normal teenage boy. With this wider worldview, Junior has discovered that the limits to what he can become are endless and that in whatever endeavor he undertakes, there are those with whom he will find kinship; he need never be alone.

The story ends on a poignant but hopeful note. Junior has learned that people cannot be classified; his father, for example, who is an unreliable drunk, is a loving parent, and Roger, who is “a little bit racist,” is a loyal friend. By making allowances for people and “letting them into [his] life a little bit,” he has found that for the most part, they can be “pretty damn amazing.” Although he will always experience a longing for the loved ones and the past he has left behind, time heals and love endures. Junior has chosen a lonely road, but it is a road filled with hope and promise. By cherishing the little bits of joy that come his way, Junior will live each day, not “keeping score” and without fear of the future.


Chapters 20-24 Summary and Analysis