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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How does the last line of Chapter 2 in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian apply to today's life?

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When Junior says this, he is being sarcastic and self-deprecating (making fun of himself). He spends much of this section commenting on all the ways he and his family suffer from poverty, including having no food to eat and being hungry a lot. When his dog, Oscar, gets sick, his family cannot afford to bring him to a veterinarian, so Junior's father shoots him to stop his suffering.

The ideas from this passage can be applied today in a number of ways. First, despite the horrible circumstances of Junior's life, he uses his sense of humor to get through it. This section and the novel itself is also a larger commentary on the treatment and living conditions of Native Americans. Junior's story is not rare, and the poverty, racism, and prejudice he faces are a sad reality for Native Americans across the United States.

The "joke" he makes about anyone being able to afford a bullet can be seen as a deeper comment on the poverty experienced by Native Americans on reservations nationwide today.

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In Junior's sardonic yet poignant narration, the line with which he concludes chapter two—"a bullet only costs about two cents, and anybody can afford that"—has enormous implications for interpretation when studying both the remainder of the novel and truths about modern-day society. Since The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as a whole is a novel that focuses so much on identity, this line establishes Junior's belief in the rather pessimistic theme that people—regardless of who they are, how old they are, how rich they are, etc.—would almost always rather cause harm and pain to others than show care and protection.

The most prevalent example in the novel of this theme is through bullying. Junior experiences consistent bullying in the two cultures of which he is a part and can therefore be seen as symbolic of the bullying rampant in today's society. Within a variety of modern contexts, bullying can be easily identified because of the seeming veracity of the statement that people will shoot two-cent bullets simply because they can afford them.

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The line "a bullet only costs about two cents, and anybody can afford that" is said in the context of Junior's dog Oscar, who became sick at the beginning of this great novel. While the family does not have the money to take him to the vet and get Oscar the help that he needs, his father was able to afford to take him out back and put him out of his misery by shooting him.

This is applicable to a lot of situations in life today. Taking the cheap way out is often the affordable, if heartless, way to do things. Take the refugee crisis facing many countries around the world for example. The cheapest thing to do is turn them away and refuse to offer them refuge. The far more humane (but more expensive) approach would be to offer them a new home. However, like taking Oscar to the vet, this approach would be more time-consuming and more expensive.

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At the end of the second chapter of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Junior says, "A bullet only costs about two cents, and anybody can afford that" to comment on the state of poverty in which his family exists. Junior's father has to shoot their dog Oscar because they cannot afford vet care for him. Junior has to carry Oscar out to the yard, and he thinks the dog knows exactly what his fate is going to be. Junior reasons that poverty doesn't make anyone stronger in terms of perseverance; he thinks being poor just teaches people how to continue being poor. Junior says poverty is an "ugly circle" in which he and others around him are caught. Junior's sentiment can be related to life today because there are many people caught in cycles of poverty. Income inequality allows some to reap extraordinary benefits and opportunities while others struggle just to make ends meet for their basic survival.

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