Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 212
Indian Killer, by Sherman Alexie, is a story about a serial murderer on an Indian reservation in Washington, and it highlights the link between racial injustice and violence. The Native Americans in Alexie’s story are all fighting for survival, a condition that characterizes their life. Living on reservations, they feel broken and crippled by pent-up rage. Their oppression by white people, they have come to realize, now defines their existence. Their cultures have been devalued, their people have been enslaved, and the society they live in is now fueled by anger and resentment.
Throughout the story, Alexie conveys the idea that Native Americans feel lost and misunderstood. Caught in between worlds, they feel like they belong nowhere. Reservation life is not a life that they can ever feel bonded to, because they are essentially enslaved in both a physical and emotional sense. Because the crimes in the story are motivated by racism and hatred and the anger it engenders, violence is used by the characters as a means of retribution for past injustices. Because the Indian Killer is never caught, Alexie seems to be saying that the plight of the Native Americans and the conflict they suffer as a result continues to plague their existence and will never be fully resolved.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1921
As a full-blooded Native American, born and reared in Wellpinit on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, Sherman Alexie is well aware of his people’s problems in contemporary, white- dominated society. Since 1992, when as a college student he published his first book, a collection of poems entitled I Would Steal Horses, he has voiced his concerns about Native Americans in several genres, including fiction. There were five short stories in The Business of Fancydancing (1992), as well as a number of poems and vignettes, while The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993) was devoted entirely to short fiction. A number of the characters from that collection reappeared in Alexie’s first novel, Reservation Blues (1995). Like his other works, Reservation Blues told the stories of people who, having lost the traditions which once sustained them, live desperate lives, bereft of hope and of significance.
Indian Killer has the same subject and the same settings as that novel and Alexie’s earlier short stories. Like Reservation Blues, it is also complex in structure, using various points of view in order to illuminate the lives of not just one protagonist, but a number of characters. While the earlier works were brightened by flashes of humor, however, the tone of Indian Killer is quite different. Even though Alexie presents some scenes in which a group of Indians fall into uncontrollable laughter, which the author says is their way of driving away the devils that haunt them, he does not join the fun. Instead, he maintains a tone of righteous indignation, stressing the tragic consequences of prejudice and discrimination.
The protagonist of Indian Killer is John Smith, who is first shown at the time of his birth to a fourteen-year-old Indian girl. Despite the young mother’s heartrending cries for her baby, a nurse bundles him up immediately after the delivery and rushes him out to a helicopter. Soon he is in the arms of Olivia Smith, a well-to-do, childless white woman, and her architect husband Daniel. A kindly, well-meaning couple, they adopt him and rear him as lovingly as if he were of their own blood, never realizing that the fact John is cut off from his heritage will eventually drive him mad. While Olivia does her best to inform John about his people and frequently takes him to functions where other Native Americans are present, all of her efforts fail to give John a sense of his own...
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