The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Summary and Analysis: Every Little Hurricane
by Sherman Alexie

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven book cover
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Summary and Analysis: Every Little Hurricane

New Characters
Victor: the main character of several stories; he is nine years old in this opening tale.

Adolph and Arnold: Victor’s uncles, whose drunken fight during a New Year’s Eve party provides a focal point for the story.

Victor’s father and mother: the protagonist’s parents, who remain unnamed in this story.

The book opens with a story about the metaphorical arrival of a hurricane on the Spokane Indian Reservation on New Year’s Eve of 1976. The story is told in a third-person narrative voice from the perspective of Victor, who is nine years old at the time.

It soon becomes clear that the storm is more symbolic than real; it symbolizes Victor’s emotional confusion during a raucous party at his parents’ house and foreshadows danger not only to his home, his family and the Reservation, but also to his tribe, the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indians. As he watches a fight between his uncles, Adolph and Arnold, Victor imagines that they are like storm fronts, waging a brutal yet affectionate battle against one another. He goes on to liken the act of watching the fight to that of witnessing violence “of an epic scale” against and amongst Indians for “hundreds of years.”

The action shifts as Victor struggles to distinguish physical injury from psychological pain. He compares his feelings during the party to injuries sustained while sledding in the snow. The question is not resolved, but merely reconsidered in different terms as Victor wonders which would be easier: to try to change bad memories or to forget them. The choice is like that between the complete destruction of or serious damage to one’s house by a hurricane. Victor wonders which is worse.

A memory from Christmas Eve four years ago demonstrates the difficulty of Victor’s choice. He remembers his father’s tears when he couldn’t afford gifts for the family; this sorrow over their poverty is a familiar experience in the family. It is lessened, but not mended, by Victor’s mother’s efforts to make the family comfortable, which include both real and imagined feats, from making fry bread despite a lack of ingredients to “comb[ing] Victor’s braids into dreams.” These dreams of a full stomach and contentment, however, continue to alternate with nightmares of hunger and conflict. The irony [why irony?] is that the nightmares more closely resemble reality than the dreams. Victor’s most dreaded nightmare takes the form of his father’s periodic binges; the storm unleashed when alcohol is consumed on an empty stomach is compared to the splitting of a tree or an atom. Alcohol is like a flood that Victor fears will consume him and his family; it is another symbol of the many challenges that threaten the survival of this family and tribe.

The short story concludes as Victor reenters the present and the storm around him again. The fight between Adolph and Arnold ends with a reconciliation shared by the entire group present at the party. Each person remembers a past wrong done to them and finds comfort in the shared experience of suffering with other members of the tribe. Victor imagines that the emotion now brimming over in the home obscures his vision and separates him from his parents. He cries until they are found, safely passed out in bed. As he crawls into their bed, the escapades of the drunken partiers from that night are recounted, some more humorous than others. The party finally ends as everyone frolics in the snow and Victor falls asleep between his parents.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, published in 1993, is a collection of short stories about the experiences of a cast of characters living on the Spokane Indian Reservation in northeastern Washington state. Several stories were eventually adapted into a screenplay for the 1998 film Smoke Signals, also written and produced by Sherman Alexie.

The inspiration for the book comes directly from the childhood of the author as well as the history of his tribe; Alexie is a...

(The entire section is 2,110 words.)