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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Who is Oscar in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

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Oscar is Junior's dog. He is a mutt whom Junior trusts more than any human being, and he feels that Oscar is a very good being. Oscar becomes sick from the heat, and he has seizures. Junior begs his parents to take Oscar to the vet, but they simply don't have the money, as the visit could cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, Junior's dad shoots the dog, which, Junior points out, only costs two cents for the bullet.

Oscar is a symbol of the poverty of Junior's family and the way Junior is denied basic joys that might be available to other kids. Junior's parents know that he loves his dog, but they are put in the position of not being able to do anything to help him. They come from a long line of poor people, and there isn't any route to earning a better living on the reservation.

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Oscar is Junior's dog. He is "only an adopted stray mutt, but he was the only living thing that [Junior] could depend on" (9). Oscar is actually not a main character of the story. He is introduced, sadly, to illustrate a bigger point about poverty.

Junior explains that the worst thing about being poor is not actually hunger. He then goes on to tell the story of Oscar, his adopted and beloved dog, who was "better than any human [he] had ever known" (9). But then Oscar gets sick and there's not enough money to take him to the vet. Instead of treating the sick dog, Junior's dad gets out his gun and puts him down. 

For Junior, the painful memory of Oscar and his fate is an illustration of the real physical pain of poverty. In a sense, Oscar is a piece of the bigger picture compelling Junior to leave the reservation and do something more with his life.

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, who is Oscar?

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Oscar is the Spirit family's dog.  Junior characterizes the dog as being his best friend, and Junior says that besides Rowdy, he does not really have any human friends, so Oscar is incredibly important to him.  But the dog eventually gets sick, and the Spirit family cannot afford to take him to the vet.  Junior pushes his parents to do something for the dog, but they just do not have the money to care for Oscar.  So his father euthanizes the dog instead.  Junior's recount of what happens to Oscar is significant because it underscores the overwhelming poverty that his family experiences, yet it also shows how sympathetic his family is to times of hardship.  Junior's family makes hard choices out of love and concern.

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