Questions and Answers: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Indian Education, Family Portrait and Witnesses, Secret and Not

Sherman Alexie

Questions and Answers: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Indian Education, Family Portrait and Witnesses, Secret and Not

Questions
1. Why does the narrator of the title story decide to leave his girlfriend, and what is the significance of this decision?

2. What is the primary result of Junior’s education “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”?

3. What is problematic about memories in “Family Portrait”?

4. Who is Jerry Vincent and what is learned from his story in “Witnesses, Secret and Not”?

5. What does “Witnesses, Secret and Not” suggest about the experience of being a “witness,” both in the narrator’s family and culture?

Answers
1. A nightmare of punishment for their interracial romance prompts his departure. His decision stems from the larger conflict between white and Native American cultures in his life, a conflict that the story fails to resolve.

2. He shows promise as an athlete and scholar, culminating in attendance of a white high school; these experiences bring awareness that his education has only isolated him from life on the Reservation.

3. The narrator learns that memories vary amongst individuals and shift over time. He has difficulty ascertaining the facts of childhood because each member recalls it differently. Even his own bias has tainted his feelings and perceptions.

4. Jerry Vincent was a friend of the narrator’s father. He is accordingly a person of interest in the ongoing investigation of Jerry’s murder. The narrator learns, however, that the story surrounding the murder is finally more important (to his father, family, and tribe) than the details of his death.

5. The act of bearing witness provides the only way of addressing his experiences, even if it might be an unreliable method of remembering and communicating about the past. This experience allows him to explore the different meanings that his Native American identity might have over the years.