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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What event causes Junior to fall into a deep depression?

Quick answer:

What sends Junior into a deep depression is the deaths of his dog and his dad’s best friend.

Expert Answers

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Two particular incidents in Sherman Alexie’s novel make Junior feel notably or deeply depressed. Each incident involves a death. The first incident concerns the death of an animal, and the second incident relates to the death of a person.

At the start of the story, Junior talks about Oscar. Oscar is Junior’s dog. Although he’s a stray mutt, Junior presents Oscar as an exceptionally admirable creature. “He was the only living thing that I could depend on,” says Junior. “Oscar was a better person than any human I had ever known.”

Unfortunately, Oscar is sick. His eyes are red, he doesn’t want to be touched, and he won’t drink water. Junior tells his mom that they should take Oscar to the vet. Junior’s mom replies that they don’t have money to pay for a vet visit. To put Oscar out of his misery, Junior’s dad shoots him. The death of Junior’s dog makes him “so depressed.” He thinks about “crawling into a hole and disappearing forever.”

Later on, Eugene, the best friend of Junior’s dad, dies. Junior calls Eugene a “good guy.” He thinks of Eugene as an uncle. Eugene’s helpfulness is highlighted when he takes Junior to school on his motorcycle and treats his injuries during the violent basketball game against his former school.

Similar to Oscar, Eugene dies because of a gun. Eugene was drinking with a friend when the friend shot him in the face. The friend was too drunk to remember what he did. Eugene’s death, coming on the heels of the death of Junior’s grandma, makes Junior “so depressed” that he considers leaving Reardan and returning to Wellpinit.

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