Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 292
Sherman Alexie, the Native American author of Indian Killer, begins his novel with a few bleak and depressing quotes. These quotes help establish some of the more depressing aspects of life on a reservation.
Alexie starts the novel with the following quote:
The sheets are dirty. An Indian Health Service hospital in the late sixties. On this reservation or that reservation. Any reservation, a particular reservation.
The dirtiness of the hospital sheets let the reader know straight away that, though this is a medical facility, it is not the best. The most essential aspect of a hospital is cleanliness, and this particular hospital fails to meet this most basic of requirements. Alexie then gives some setting with the decade, the late sixties, and the location, a reservation. He admits that this hospital on this reservation could have been that of any reservation. The conditions at this hospital are no different than those in reservation hospitals in other parts of the country.
Alexie's depressing setting is reflected in two of the hospital’s patients, an old Indian woman and an old Indian man. The woman in this quote reflects the aging, abandoned, and forgotten traditions of the Native Americans:
Old Indian woman in a wheelchair singing traditional songs to herself, tapping a rhythm on her armrest, right index finger tapping, tapping. Pause. Tap, tap.
The man represents outright abandonment of the past by the young and searching for the past by the old:
Old Indian man, his hair bright white and unbraided, pushing his I.V. bottle down the hallway. He is barefoot and confused, searching for a pair of moccasins he lost when he was twelve years old.
These quotes combined paint an unsettling and darkly depressing scene of life on reservations.
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