Chapters 8-13 Summary and Analysis
Junior's father drives him the twenty-two miles to school on his first day at Reardan. He reminds his son that "those white people aren't better than (him)," a fact which neither of them quite believe, but the expression of his love gives Junior the courage to follow through on his resolve. The white kids stare at him as they arrive, and Junior wonders what he is doing there at Reardan, where the only other Indian is ironically the school mascot. When Junior's homeroom teacher calls him by his given name, Arnold Spirit, Junior feels "like two different people inside of one body;" one, Arnold, who navigates in the white world, and the other, Junior, who lives on the reservation. An attractive blonde girl named Penelope asks Arnold where he is from, and comments on his "singsong reservation accent" when he responds.
During the following days, Junior is ignored at school by all of the "pretty, pretty white girls" and most of the boys as well, but one group of "jocks" torments him by calling him names and denigrating his heritage. When one of these jocks, a "giant" named Roger, subjects him to an especially degrading joke about Indians, Junior feels that he must stand up for himself, and punches Roger in the face. Following the rules of fighting that prevail on the rez, he then challenges his much larger opponent to finish the fight, but Roger, shocked, tells Junior he is crazy and walks away. Confused, Junior turns that evening to his grandmother for advice, and, after thinking deeply upon his account of the incident, she tells him that perhaps he has won Roger's respect. The next day, Junior is forced to walk to school because his parents do not have money for gas. Fortunately, his father's friend Eugene is heading to Spokane on his motorcycle, and offers him a ride. Eugene is like an uncle to Junior, but he is drunk all the time. When Eugene drops Junior off at Reardan, all the white kids just stare; Eugene has "braids down to his butt," and Junior speculates that the two of them on the motorcycle exude an aura of danger. As Junior approaches the school building, Roger appears, and Junior braces himself for a fight. Roger, however, is "actually nice," inquiring curiously about Eugene and his bike, thus paying them and Junior some respect. Junior, stunned, thinks that maybe his grandmother was right, and, feeling confident later that day, tries to strike up a friendly conversation with "Penelope the Beautiful," only to be snubbed. Junior remembers an incident that occurred when he was twelve and had fallen in love with an Indian girl who was "out of (his) league." In talking about his situation with Rowdy, he had begun to cry because of the trauma of unrequited love, but Rowdy, loyal friend that he was, did not tell anyone about his weakness.
On Halloween, Junior goes to school dressed as "a homeless dude," and coincidentally, Penelope masquerades as a homeless woman. Penelope compliments Junior on his costume, and tells him that, in protest against the treatment of homeless people in the country, she will be asking for spare change instead of candy when she goes trick-or-treating that night, and will donate what she collects to the homeless. Wanting her to admire him, Junior says that he plans to do the same for homeless Native Americans, and suggests that they pool their money and send it in together. That night, Junior goes trick-or-treating on the rez. Some people are happy to give a small donation, but others, angry at his "betrayal" in leaving the rez to go to a white school, call him names and slam the door in his face. As he is walking home, Junior is jumped by three guys in Frankenstein masks who take his money, but "mostly just (want) to remind (him) that (he) is a traitor." Junior remembers how Rowdy used to protect him when they went trick-or-treating together, and wonders if, this year, Rowdy is "one of the guys who just beat (him) up." When Junior, empty-handed, approaches Penelope at school the...
(The entire section is 1,804 words.)