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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Discussion Topic

Gordy's role as Junior's friend in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Summary:

Gordy serves as an intellectual and supportive friend to Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He encourages Junior to embrace his love for learning and helps him navigate the challenges of being a Native American student at a predominantly white school.

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Why does Gordy befriend Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Gordy first catches Junior's attention in the classroom, after he corrects the teacher about misguided information concerning petrified wood. The teacher is relieved when Gordy, the class genius, raises his hand, because he assumes this student will put Junior in his place. Instead, Gordy agrees with Junior.

If you only read the scene from Junior's perspective, you might assume that Gordy becomes his friend because he is also strange and lonely. This is what Junior believes brings these two together. He approaches Gordy and describes with bluntness just how strange and different Gordy is from the rest of the kids at the school. Gordy uses phrases like "singular wit" and "Anglophile." Junior points out to Gordy that the two of them are both "weird" (93). 

I mean, you and I, we have a lot in common.

Gordy studied me now.

I was an Indian kid from the reservation. I was lonely and sad and isolated and terrified.

Just like Gordy.

And so we did become friends. (94)

In this conversation, however, if you examine Gordy's responses to Junior, it is clear that Gordy does not care that he is different from others, nor does he feel ostracized nor lonely by this fact. Therefore, it could be argued that Gordy is merely intrigued by Junior, and finds him both intelligent and interesting. He might also enjoy the position of being able to teach someone who is willing to learn. Look at the progression of Junior's description of the friendship:

We didn't share secrets. Or dreams...No, we studied together.
Gordy taught me how to study.
Best of all, he taught me how to read...

...Gordy believed in me...

...he was the smartest person I'd ever known...
And he certainly helped me through high school. (94-98)

Gordy might not care at all that he is different from other kids. He seems to celebrate his own weirdness, or not really even notice it. But it is also clear that Junior is the first person to be interested in Gordy, therefore he is a live and listening outlet for Gordy to share his intellect with. Gordy very likely agrees to be Junior's friend because he enjoys the intellectual stimulation.

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Can Gordy replace Rowdy as Junior's friend in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Even though it becomes clear that Gordy and Junior are "a tribe of two" because they are both outsiders, the reality is that Gordy will never be Rowdy.  Junior knows this.  It becomes clear to Junior when Gordy responds after being thanked for standing up for Junior that  Gordy "didn't do it for (Junior)...(he) did it for science."   This sums up much about their friendship and while it does advance in the novel, it is nowhere near the emotional intensity of Junior and Rowdy.  

Gordy lacks the depth of Rowdy.  Rowdy feels empathy for Junior because of the torment and pain in his own life. Whenever Rowdy needs assistance in terms of a place to stay, emotional or physical shelter, Junior is there. There is a loyalty that is heartfelt within Rowdy towards Junior.  This emotional bond to this extent is lacking between Junior and Gordy. Their association is valid.  Yet, it is constructed because of the situation in which both of them are isolated from all else.  In the relationship between Junior and Rowdy, there is a sincere depth to their relationship.  Junior needs Rowdy as much as Rowdy needs him.  The level of anger that Rowdy feels towards Junior is out of betrayal and hurt.  It becomes clear that Gordy does not view Junior in this same realm.  This is why Gordy could not replace Rowdy.  The ending of the novel demonstrates this. While both of them live in different worlds, Junior and Rowdy play one on one basketball, without keeping score, knowing that they are bound together in so many different ways.  Gordy does not possess this with Junior and, to this extent, Gordy will not be able to replace Rowdy.

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