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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Character Analysis and Development of Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Summary:

Junior, the protagonist in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is a young Native American who struggles with his identity and aspirations. He faces adversity both on and off the reservation, including poverty and racial tension. His character development is marked by his resilience, humor, and determination to seek a better future through education and personal growth.

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What is the name of Junior's sister in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Junior's older sister is called Mary Runs Away. She got this nickname because of her rather wild and unpredictable nature. She is a bright, funny, and beautiful young woman who has essentially squandered her gifts. After graduating high school, where Junior's geometry teacher, Mr. P., claims she showed promise as a writer, Mary Runs Away buried herself away in the basement with no thought of attending a college or pursuing any kind of career. She had dreams of writing romance novels, but this too came to nothing for many years.

Junior's decision to go to Reardan High despite the reaction of the other Spokane Indians on the reservation inspires Mary to take an active stance in her own life. First, she starts writing again, resurrecting her old dream of becoming a romance novelist. Then she suddenly elopes with a Flathead Indian and then moves in with him in Montana (giving her name "Mary Runs Away" an additional and quite literal meaning). For a while, it seems as though Mary's lot has improved, but the unpredictable part of her personality ends up mirroring the turn of events in her life: Mary dies in a fire, unable to save herself due to being drunk.

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Who is the character Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

In Sherman Alexie's young adult novel, Junior is Arnold Spirit Junior, a fourteen-year-old Native American living on the  Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. He has some physical challenges from being born with hydrocephalus.  Junior's family is poor, and he is very intelligent.  He likes to draw cartoons and play basketball. 

Junior tells the story from his perspective, so he is the narrator and the cartoonist, as the novel is his diary.  His youth and inexperience make his perspective as the narrator sometimes unreliable because he is not yet fully self-aware. 

Junior does not feel completely at home on the reservation, and when he transfers to an all-white school about twenty miles away, he does not feel entirely at home there, either.  He is caught between two cultures and is ultimately able to find some acceptance in both.

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What lessons does Junior learn in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Throughout the course of the novel, Junior learns numerous lessons about identity, family, and friends. The plot concerns Junior’s transfer from a school on the American Indian reservation where he lives to a white-majority school in town more than twenty miles away. His understanding of his Native American identity changes as he matures as an adolescent. In only one year, Junior loses several family members. Although his grandmother’s death saddens him, he can accept it because of her age. However, his sister and her husband also die when their house burns down. Because the accident occurred when party-goers at their home overindulged in alcohol, his grief is much greater. He learns about grief and about the effects of substance dependency.

At the new school, he accommodates to the greater academic demands. Perhaps more importantly, he makes new friends and falls in love with a popular white girl. However, his oldest friendship is strained when Rowdy accuses him of selling out. Through participation in sports, Junior learns a way to fit in to the new environment and forges a path to renew his bond with Rowdy.

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How does Junior's personality change throughout "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"?

Arnold/Junior changes in a variety of ways throughout the book, and that makes him a dynamic character. His opinions about people change a great deal. Readers should look to how his relationship with Rowdy changes throughout the book; however, Junior's biggest change is how he sees himself. At the beginning of the novel, Junior doesn't see himself in much of a positive light at all. He sees himself as a kid with brain issues. He sees himself as brown, not white, and therefore hopeless.

"Come on, I said. "Who has the most hope?"

"White people," my parents said at the same time.

Junior also sees himself as poor, and as a consequence, he sees himself as stupid and ugly.

It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. 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.

These feelings about being Native American, stupid, ugly, poor, and hopeless are part of the reason that he decides to go to a school off of the reservation. It is even at the encouragement of a teacher.

"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more pope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation."

The move to the new school doesn't fix everything right away, either. Junior isn't immediately embraced by the rich white kids, and he is now shunned by the people on the reservation for leaving. Essentially, Junior feels like an outsider on all sides, but that changes completely by the end of the book. Junior embraces being a nomad, and his friend Rowdy also gives his support. Junior is now able to see himself differently. Instead of being apart from and outside of many groups, he now sees himself as belonging to many different groups. That gives him hope.

I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.

And to the tribe of cartoonists.

And to the tribe of chronic masturbators.

And the tribe of teenage boys.

And the tribe of small-town kids.

And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.

And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.

And the tribe of poverty.

And the tribe of funeral goers.

And the tribe of beloved sons.

And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.

It was a huge realization.

And that's when I knew that I was going to be okay.

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How does Junior's personality change throughout "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"?

Junior's character is not static, it is very much dynamic. He is constantly changing for the better, and as he gains experience, he gains maturity. From the beginning of the novel to the end, we see Junior lose some of his innocence, bitterness, and fear.

At the beginning of the story Junior is somewhat immature. He clearly hates his life on the reservation, but if there is one thing he hates more than the Indians who torment him, it is white people. He does not trust them and he is generally afraid of them. From the white dentist who doesn't give enough Novocaine, to the white teachers who are either "liberal, white, vegetarian do-gooders" or "conservative, white missionary saviors" (30). He only has one friend, and their friendship is probably largely rooted in the fact that no one else likes either one of them. He is very emotionally close to his family.

In just one year, Junior experiences several things that change him greatly. First and most important, he attends Reardan High, which is an all white school off the reservation. There, he meets kids like Penelope, Roger, and Gordy, who earn his trust through their kindness. He learns to stop hiding who he is, which is a very smart but also very poor Indian kid. He is a star on the Varsity basketball team, and must play against his former high school and best friend. In front of his entire reservation, he plays his heart out and wins for Reardan. All of these things lead to a temporary loss of his best friend Rowdy.

Other key events that take place over the course of the year are a sequence of surprising and tragic deaths that directly affect Junior. First, his grandmother is hit by a car and killed. Then, his father's best friend is shot and killed. Then, his sister dies in a fire. Junior experiences each of these losses, and mourns, and has a period where he is emotionally lost himself. But each of these result in him becoming even closer to the kids at his new school, and realizing that he has people other than his family who care about him. In all this he remarks about his own growth:

You probably think I've completely fallen in love with white people and that I don't see anything good in Indians.
Well, that's false. (152)

By the end of the novel, Junior is a more mature, more emotionally stable, and a more secure teenager. He reunites with his friend Rowdy. He has lost a lot of his fear of the unknown and looks forward to another school year at the all white school. And as he reflects on the year, he is aware of how he has changed.

I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy, but I was not alone in my loneliness. (217)

He goes on to create an entire list of all the "tribes" he belongs to, which reveals that he has let go of many of his former grudges, fears, and prejudices, and is willing to make connections to people in other ways.

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A character changes as a result of the novel's events like behavior, appearance, personality. How did Junior change from beginning, middle, and end?

Over the course of the novel, Junior matures and begins to realize that he must overcome obstacles to achieve his dreams.  At the beginning of the novel, Junior introduces himself to the reader as an awkward teenager who is trapped in his life on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  After witnessing elements of life that hold back other Indians on the reservation (i.e. alcoholism, domestic abuse, poverty), Junior changes and decides that he wants his life to be different.  He is angry that the education on the reservation is not up to standard, so he decides to attend Reardan.  This decision, however, isolates Junior from others, especially Rowdy, who see him as wanting to be "better than" the others around him.  After his early days at Reardan, Junior questions whether or not he has made the right decision.  By the end of the novel, Junior has matured and has resolved to continue pursuing his dreams.  He has also learned the meaning of friendship and family, and even though he has lost important members of his family such as his grandmother and Mary, he reconnects with Rowdy.

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How does Junior's character evolve in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

In Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the main character, Arnold "Junior" Spirit, goes through many changes. He goes from being a bully's target to a respected member of his tribe, and he becomes a stronger person in the face of adversity.

At the beginning of the novel, we learn how Junior was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid, which caused him to have physical deformities. These deformities caused him to get bullied frequently—leaving him with only one friend named Rowdy.

One day, Junior finally snaps. He decides he doesn't want to attend the school on his reservation and makes the choice to attend Reardon, the white high school over 20 miles away. He doesn't want to end up like the other alcoholic Indians on his reservation. He wants to make something of himself. This is where we see Junior begin to change.

Junior battles poverty, hunger, the embarrassment of being different, and Rowdy's abandonment. He loses his Grandmother, his dad's best friend, and his sister all in the same school year on top of dealing with hatred from both sides of the coin. While the people at Reardon are nice to him, he's not white. And because he left the rez, he loses respect from his tribe.

While Junior deals with anxiety and depression, he never gives up. He plays in the basketball game against his home town and proves to himself that he is worthy of a better life. At the end of the novel, Junior realizes he is not alone in his loneliness. There are millions of other Americans just like him that left what they knew in search of something better.

Overall, Junior matures. He goes from being a young boy that was afraid to stand up for himself into a young man that has faced hardship with grace and strength. By the end of the novel, he knows he will always be okay and that he will never be alone again. He resumes his friendship with Rowdy and begins to gain the respect back from his tribe. By standing up for himself, Junior grows up.

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How does Junior come full circle by the end of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Part of the reason why Junior comes full circle in his thinking is because he has learned to see the world beyond dualities.  Throughout the narrative, Junior struggles with being "Indian" or "White."  His world is constructed in dualities.  Either he lives on the reservation with the Spokanes, or he is at Reardon with the Whites.  In the end, Mary's death allows Junior to experience several epiphanies.  He learns that one has to "live life."  This involves following one's dreams, and while others might not understand this pursuit, it is not something that can be eliminated entirely for the sake of something else.  His understanding of how alcohol abuse is a way to deal with the death of one's dreams is a part of this.  Mary might have died for her own dreams, but they were her own.  When Junior's mother commends Junior for his path, it is almost a resolution to his own ambivalence.  It confirms that Junior will always be Indian, but that does not mean that dreams and aspirations are silenced.  In the end, Junior weeps for understanding from his tribe, and in the process, seeks to embrace his own dreams, living on the reservation while being able to experience acceptance from the Whites.  In this light, Junior sees his experience as unique and distinctive, something that lies outside the realm of binary dualism.  When he and Rowdy play hoops without keeping score, it represents transcendence from "either/ or" into a transcendent realm.

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How does the author portray Junior's loneliness in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian?

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, the author Sherman Alexie illustrates Junior's loneliness through the limited friendships that he has throughout the novel.  For example, in just the second chapter of the novel, Junior's dog Oscar gets ill, and the family cannot afford veterinary care for him.  Junior begs his parents to help, but they simply do not have the extra money, and Junior's father puts Oscar out of his misery by euthanizing him.  Junior says that Oscar, besides Rowdy, was his best friend.  It may seem that Junior is exaggerating that statement because he is grieving; however, the novel later reveals that Junior's friendships are indeed limited.  Others on the reservation bully Junior because he has some physical ailments, and when Junior first attends Reardan, many students discriminate against him because of his ethnic background.  Certainly Junior does have some close friends such as Rowdy and Penelope, but he is at times lonely because these friendships are few.

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How does the author portray Junior's loneliness in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian?

As part of Junior's reflection process, he acknowledges that while there are significant problems on the reservation such as poverty, alcoholism, and loss of hope, there is great beauty as well. Rowdy decides that Junior is a traitor for changing schools and leaving the reservation for Reardan, Junior is lonely. He has space to figure out where his values lie. Junior is sitting in the mountains overlooking the reservation when he cannot help but notice how beautiful the landscape is. This vision is a metaphor for the good that exists on the reservation. For example, although Junior's father struggles with alcoholism, he is also incredibly supportive of Junior's education. Junior's father encourages his son to succeed at Reardan.

Junior also acknowledges that other members of his family love and support him. He sees this beauty reflected in the culture of the reservation. As a result of this positivity, Junior sees himself as part of this multi-layered landscape. Although he has challenges resulting from his physical conditions (i.e. hydrocephalus), he breaks free from the effects of past bullying and knows that he is a good person. Junior has been a good friend to others such as Penelope, and by the end of the book, he is also a good friend to Rowdy. So a renewed sense of self is a positive aspect that Junior acquires over the course of the novel.

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What are some character traits of Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Junior is a very bright boy. He is not challenged by the work at the school on the reservation, and he decides to attend a school that has more resources because it is in a white town off the reservation. In addition, Junior is very thoughtful and understands people well. He is a good observer and knows that his parents' lives haven't been easy. He understands the way in which their dreams have been unrealized and also recognizes that they have unmet goals. He comes to understand Penelope, a white girl who comes from a very different background than he does. He recognizes that she is suffering with bulimia and that she has her own problems, though she is far more privileged than he is. He is a sympathetic and thoughtful observer of other people.

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What are some character traits of Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, the narrator and protagonist Junior is a 14-year-old boy living on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  He is a smart kid who loves school, and as the novel progresses, readers learn that he sees his education as a means of opportunity to get a better life for himself.  He is determined to succeed, so he decides to go off the reservation to a white school called Reardan to get a better education.  Junior's decision shows his bravery:  at home on the rez, he faces other Indians who feel that he has betrayed them by going to a white school, and at Reardan, Junior faces discrimination and taunting from white students.  Junior gets support from his parents, and this trait has trickled down to Junior as well--he is supportive of his family and his best friend Rowdy.  Later, Junior meets friends at Reardan like Penelope, and he is supportive of her efforts to beat her problem with bulimia.  So, these are some of Junior's character traits.

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What are the worst character traits of Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

This is a pretty hard question to answer, especially because Junior is developed as an overly sympathetic protagonist in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. That said, no character is perfect, so in looking at Junior's more "negative" character traits, we might argue that his lack of self-esteem, mainly near the beginning of the book, is his "worst" trait. Junior suffers from several physical ailments like hydrocephalus, poor eyesight, and too many teeth, and he seems to be self-conscious about his appearance. He often is bullied on the reservation because of his looks, such as when the Andruss brothers pick on him. Junior resorts to humor and drawing to deal with the bullying, and these tactics to a certain degree mask the low self-esteem that Junior has. As the novel progresses, however, Junior arguably gets more confident, especially after he makes new friends and fights for a better education.

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What are Junior's struggles with identity in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"?

Junior mainly struggles with his racial/cultural identity. He is a Spokane Indian living on a reservation where poverty and alcoholism are major problems. Both his parents and his older sister, Mary, despite being good people at heart, have given up on life, resigned to their impoverishment. Junior is a bright kid with big dreams of becoming a comic book artist, yet it seems that life on the reservation will only limit his chances at making something of himself—there is every chance he will end up like his sister Mary, frustrated and reclusive. This is why Junior makes the decision to attend Reardan High, an all-white school off the reservation, even though it means his fellow Spokane Indians will view him as a traitor, a sellout to white people.

The white students at Reardan do not wholly accept Junior, either. He is the only Spokane Indian at the school and therefore an oddity, and his physical disabilities only add to this. While Junior eventually makes friends at the school, as well as a place on the basketball team, his white friends are not able to totally understand his position. Among the Spokane Indians, he is seen as too white, and among the Reardan kids, he is seen as an Indian.

Junior struggles to define himself on his own terms, forfeiting neither his cultural heritage nor the new connections he's made at Reardan. Ultimately, he succeeds in integrating himself into both worlds without compromising himself or feeling torn apart. As Junior later explains, "The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not."

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Which school did Junior transfer to in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Hoping to gain a better education as well as ridding himself of the stagnant life on the Spokane Indian Reservation, Arnold "Junior" Spirit decides to transfer to the local public high school in the Sherman Alexie novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. When Junior transfers to the high school 20 miles away, he becomes more of an outcast than ever. His friends on the reservation call him an "apple"--red on the outside and white beneath the skin--and he finds himself the only Native American at his new school. But things begin to improve when, as a freshman, he makes the varsity basketball team and earns a starting position. Later, he faces off against his former best friend, Rowdy--the star of the reservation team--when Reardan High plays his old school.

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Why was Junior bullied in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"?

In the first part of the book, Junior is bullied for his physical disabilities. He was born with a birth defect that impairs his vision (forcing him to wear glasses) and causes seizures and a speech impediment, making him easy prey for bullies.

When Junior decides to go to Reardan High, an all-white school off of the reservation, he is bullied for a different reason. Now, everyone on the reservation sees him as a racial and cultural traitor: they compare him to an apple, since he is "red" on the outside but now apparently "white" on the inside. He is bullied at Reardan as well, seen as a racial other and social misfit by the white students. Everywhere he goes, Junior is essentially an outsider, seemingly doomed to never belong for one reason or another.

Junior's arc has him rising above the bullies. He stands his ground, keeping to his decision to go to Reardan to make a better future for himself, but he also decides to stay true to his heritage and loved ones on the reservation, no matter how hard his critics choose to make life for him. In the end, Junior makes the varsity basketball team despite his physical impediments. He does not allow the limited views others have of him determine what he will do with his life.

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What is Junior's self-image in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Victor Junior is the protagonist and narrator of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He is not a normal kid because of some congenital disabilities that he deals with—however, his self-deprecating and sarcastic style endears the reader. How Victor talks about himself shows that despite having many issues, he sees the dark humor in the situation. For example, the novel starts with Victor describing his congenital disability,

I was born with water on the brain.

Okay, so that's not exactly true. I was actually born with too much cerebrospinal fluid inside my skull. But cerebrospinal fluid is just the doctors' fancy way of saying brain grease (chapter 1).

The tongue-in-cheek style with which Victor talks about all his issues shows that despite understanding the physical disadvantage of his body, he takes it all in stride. Victor is striving to prove himself for much of the novel, and despite understanding his limitations, he is continuously seeking to overcome it.

Internally, Victor sees a lot of potential in himself, and his willingness to move to the white school to complete his education shows that he believes in his ability to compete academically. He also plays basketball, which shows that he doesn’t accept limitations beyond recognizing that he is disadvantaged by his birth and social constrictions.

The last view of himself that is important is his social/racial view of himself. Victor struggles with feelings of being a “traitor” or to some extent, an imposter. He lives in the fake world of his white classmates and, to some extent, escapes the poverty and issues at home on the reservation. Victor’s most significant struggle with self-image is how he copes with the decision to attend the white school—while Victor comes out arguably more privileged because of it, he feels sadness at the state of his old classmates.

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Which character has the most profound impact on Junior's life in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Of all the secondary characters in Part-Time Indian, Rowdy has the biggest impact on Junior. As in another one of Alexie's famous works, the screenplay for the film Smoke Signals, the two central characters are a Native nerd (an "indigenerd," as the slang term is now) and his best friend, who is also his worst bully.

Rowdy himself is abused at home by his father. At school, he alternately beats Junior and protects him from other bullies. Rowdy and Junior both learn from each other what it is to be Indian and Spokane. Both of them face a series of family tragedies—early deaths due to poverty and deprivation. Both of them also debate what it means to grow up Indian in a white-dominated, racist society.

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Which character has the most profound impact on Junior's life in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Because Junior’s life changes drastically when he is in high school, the matter of “profound impact” can be assessed in two different ways.

The first person with a significant impact is Rowdy, Junior’s friend, whom Junior says is the most important person in his life. While Junior is devoted to the family’s dog, Oscar, he says that Rowdy is his “best human friend.” Through their friendship as children on the reservation, which includes the bigger and stronger Rowdy sticking up for the relatively smaller and weaker Junior, they develop a lasting closeness. Rowdy must work to overcome first, his resentment of Junior for going off-reservation to the Reardan school, and second, his shock when Junior outperforms him at basketball. This adjustment does not go well at first, as manifested by Rowdy punching Junior, but as other personal events take their toll on the boys’ lives, they reconcile.

Another approach to this question is to look at the effects of Junior changing schools. The change is precipitated by his angry outburst over the ancient geometry book, which resulted in his hitting his teacher with the book. The actual transfer, however, is achieved largely at the instigation of a teacher named Mr. P. Junior had previously dismissed Mr. P. as “a lonely old white man who used to be a lonely young white man.” Mr. P. takes the initiative to come to Junior’s home and speak with him. Rather than punish Junior for his behavior, he encourages him by telling him to leave the reservation and be around people with “hope.” While this is controversial advice, Junior believes that the situation is dire on the reservation and decides that transferring schools will put him in that hopeful environment. In that respect, Mr. P. has a truly profound impact on the future course of Junior’s life.

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Which character has the most profound impact on Junior's life in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Alexie constructs Junior's narrative as one where nearly every character impacts Junior's life.  Every character has some type of altering impact on his life and his being.  Each character can have an argument made as to how their impact on Junior's life is profound.  His father represents the blighted hope of what could be, as does Junior's sister, who could have been a writer.  Junior's grandmother represents the cultural pride that is so much a part of his identity.  Penelope represents what can be and what he hopes could be.

Yet, I think that Rowdy holds the most impact and develops the most profound impact on Junior.  Rowdy is the character that represents Junior's life as a Native American in the way he stands up for him and in the torment that is such a part of Rowdy's being.  Junior recognizes in Rowdy someone as, if not more, tormented than himself at his condition of being in the world.  When Junior leaves and goes to Reardan, Rowdy being left behind leaves an impact on him.  It represents how Junior will be a part of both worlds.  In this, Rowdy represents the Native American half of Junior's identity.  It is akin to a shadow, something that cannot be escaped.  When Junior plays basketball against Rowdy at the end of the narrative without keeping score, it represents how Junior's identity will consist of multiple ends, differing ends of the spectrum of his experience.

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Who were Junior's role models in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" and why?

Quite simply, Junior's role models are his friends who are willing to stick up for him (Gordy, Roger, and Penelope) and, most importantly, the mentor who values Junior's true worth: Coach.

First, let's look at the friends who can be seen as Junior's role models.  Penelope, who first seems to be only "Penelope the Beautiful" redeems herself on Halloween.  Junior finds a new respect for her when she dresses up like a homeless lady in order to collect spare change (instead of candy) for the homeless.  In an effort to copy his role model, Junior does the same (because he is also dressed as a homeless person). 

In regard to Gordy, Junior looks up to him because he is the "class genius."  Junior corrects the teacher in the middle of a lesson and Gordy is willing to stick up for Junior.  Gordy's response hurts Junior a little bit:

I didn't do it for you. ... I did it for science.

But this still augments Gordy's intelligence where Junior is concerned.  Junior has so much respect for Gordy that Junior is brave enough to request friendship.  The two do become friends, the "Indian" and "Gordy the Genius White Boy."  Here we have an example where Roger, Penelope AND Gordy come to the rescue.  Gordy slams his textbook down and all of them walk out of the classroom to protest the teacher.  Mimicking Gordy's humor and sarcasm, Junior laughs and says the following:

I used to think the world was broken down by tribes ... black and white ... Indian and white ... but (now) I know ... the world is only broken into two tribes ... people who are assholes and ... people who are not.

Quite frankly, Roger, Penelope and Gordy are "people who are not" assholes.

Coach is the most important mentor and role model for Junior because he always talks about both respect and dignity.  Further, Coach is an ADULT role model, and not just one of Junior's peers.  Coach and Junior develop a wonderful mentor/student relationship that Junior treasures.  It begins with a compliment from Coach:

[Junior is] the best shooter who'd ever played for [Coach].

Coach says this after he first talks about the importance of "dignity and respect" and follows it up with the first drill of the team: one hundred laps.  When most of the students drop out, Junior perseveres.  Coach is impressed by Junior's sheer tenacity.  Coach also encourages Junior by valuing his opinion.  Specifically, Coach even laughs with Junior (encouraging others) when Junior says this:

If these dang Indians had been this organized when I went to school here, maybe I would have had more reasons to stay.

And, of course, one of the biggest shows of concern, compassion, and respect is when Coach visits Junior in the hospital when he is knocked unconscious at the game.

In conclusion, we must say that in speaking about the friends and mentors who have wonderful qualities encouraging Junior, there are other characters who serve as foils.  These are characters who hold absolute prejudices against Junior.  These are characters like Penelope's father and Mrs. Jeremy (the faculty member who teaches social studies).  As readers, we need to put the actions of these negative characters out of our minds so that we can focus on the positive traits of those characters, like Coach, who are truly worthy of praise.

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Who are the minor characters in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Minor characters in literature are those who aid in the development of the story, but whose personal journeys are not part of the main point of the story.  In the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, minor characters would be characters like Mr. P and Gordy.  Mr. P is Junior's math teacher at school on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  Mr. P does not appear to be happy teaching, and Junior resents him for not providing the students with the proper education.  Mr. P later tells Junior that he must leave the reservation to find a better opportunity.  This is the last time that Mr. P is in the narrative--he is only present as a way to show the pitfalls of the reservation's school system and as a catalyst to prompt Junior to go to Reardan. 

Once Junior gets to Reardan, he meets Gordy who is also an outcast because he is overly mature and intelligent.  Junior befriends him and they share the role of outsiders.  Junior shares some important moments of adolescence with Gordy, yet the two never become as close as Junior and Rowdy.  Gordy's life is not a focus in the novel, so he remains a minor character.

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Who are the minor characters in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Although there are a few other minor characters in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the one that I would consider to be most significant is Rowdy.  Rowdy graces this story to deal with the subject of disjointed friendship in regards to these fractured Native American lives.  Rowdy is friends with Junior, despite the fact that Rowdy has a very abusive father.  Both Rowdy's dad and Junior's dad share the tendency toward alcoholism except Rowdy's dad reacts violently with his booze while Junior's dad is always gentle (and often depressed).  Quite simply, Rowdy is a bully.  He is a big kid who releases his anger and frustration by beating people up.  Rowdy likes Junior, however, and spends a lot of time at his house.  Because of Junior's close relationship with Rowdy, no one beats Junior up.  Things begin to change within Junior's and Rowdy's friendship when Junior transfers to the white school.  Rowdy is incredibly disappointed, feeling as though Junior has left his Native American culture (as well as their friendship) in the dust.  Although the two are able to talk to each other, their friendship will never be the same. 

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How would you describe the character Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

One reason that Junior is a special character is because he is poised between equally desirable and ultimately incompatible courses of action.  He is firmly embedded between his love for being Native American and his desire to achieve dreams that exist outside of the Rez.  Junior can be as a special character because he is poised between both realities.  He is able to take the abuse and challenges that such a predicament warrants. He deals with the abuse hurled from the stands when Reardan plays Wellpinit.  He deals with Rowdy's anger and disappointment for his decision.  Junior is able to deal with the intimidation and harassment that he experiences at the hands of the White kids at Reardan.  He is a special character because this amount of negativity does not change his perspective.  He still embraces his feelings, demonstrates what it means to love, and stands up for redemption in a world of destruction.  

These becomes the reasons why Junior is a special character. He has the broad shoulders to endure the challenges of being a "part time Indian."  Junior is able to understand that modern identity is complex and that individuals might have to recognize that insecurity and doubt are intrinsic parts to this reality.  Junior is special because he does not become the star whose light has "faded."  Unlike his sister and those before him, Junior continues to "shine on" and this is what makes him so special in the narrative.

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, who contributes most to Junior's development?

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Junior encounters several influential people including his parents, his grandmother, and his good friends Rowdy and Penelope.  However, arguably the most influential character in Junior's development is his former math teacher Mr. P.  When Junior realizes that he has been issued an outdated textbook, he throws the book at Mr. P in anger and expects that Mr. P will likely never talk to him again.  However, Mr. P invites Junior to have a conversation about education on the reservation.  During their discussion, Mr. P reveals that he has been complicit in a scheme to assimilate the Native Americans and that he has been a part of the dilemma on the reservation in which people give up hope.  Mr. P tells Junior that the only way to save himself is to go off the reservation for a better education that will lead to opportunities in life.  Once Mr. P suggests this plan of action, Junior seriously considers the proposition and eventually does end up going to Reardan.  Changing schools is a crucial part of Junior's character development as the change challenges him to both deal with being labeled a traitor by his own people and deal with the racism in an all-white community.

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, who contributes to Arnold's maturation?

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Arnold is influenced by others around him and they all contribute in some way to his maturation.  First, Arnold's grandmother is the most forgiving and understanding person whom Arnold knows and she encourages her grandson to always look for the good in things.  Arnold's grandmother, however, is not naive and she understands the significant problems that exist on the reservation, but she recognizes the ills of the reservation as consequences of greater problems and tells Arnold that he must live a just life.

When Arnold goes to Reardon, he meets friends there who help him mature.  Gordy is a bit of an outcast just like Arnold, so the friendship between the two comes easily.  Through Gordy, Arnold begins to learn that it is fine to just be himself.  And once Arnold makes friends with the more popular crowd like Roger and Penelope, he realizes that behind the mask, popular people have problems too.  Thus Arnold matures as he learns the truths of the world.

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