single car driving across the desert

This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

by Sherman Alexie

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How do the different settings in "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" impact Tom's and Victor's relationship?

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Victor and Thomas are reconciled as friends and as storytellers after Victor's return home.

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In "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona ," Victor and Thomas Builds-the Fire had stopped being friends a long time ago. The setting changes introduce new situations for ThomasĀ  and Victor to interact in. In the airplane, Victor gets to see a new side of Thomas;...

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it may be the first time Victor has seen Thomas away from anything familiar and related, even indirectly, to the tribe and reservation. Victor is astounded that Thomas could entice a past Olympic gymnast to happily converse with them. Victor's understanding of Thomas is deepened.

At the setting of Victor's father's home, Victor is metaphorically in another wasps' nest and Thomas once again braves the same danger to nearly the same degree to rescue Victor. This time he helps him get mementos out instead of getting his foot out. This setting introduced the opportunity for Thomas to demonstrate loyalty. As a result of the action in this setting, Victor sees Thomas's character traits on a broader plane and at a deeper level.

The setting change to the truck is a little more convoluted in its affects and purpose. Victor drives continually until he can no longer safely drive, ignoring Thomas's offer to share the driving. This does affect the relationship in that Thomas demonstrates his patience, although there is no indication in the text that Victor notices it. When Thomas finally does drive, two things occur. First, Victor notices how lifeless the desert is. When he sees the jack rabbit, he is elated to have found life.

Second, the jack rabbit does a dive into the road, and Thomas runs it down. Victor responds almost hysterically by demanding that Thomas go back to it. Victor checks and sees that the jack rabbit is indeed dead. He takes it very hard. Thomas suggests that it was suicide instead of jack rabbit murder and laments that he drove only a few minutes and managed to kill the only life in the dessert.

The result of this is that Victor agrees with Thomas's statement that maybe Victor had better do the driving. The probable affect of the events related to this scene change is that Victor has had an opportunity to reciprocate to Thomas. First, Thomas has forgiven Victor for attacking and beating him and dissolving their friendship; now Victor has forgiven Thomas for the jack rabbit death. Second, Thomas has rescued Victor (twice); now Victor rescues Thomas. In a way, they have returned to sharing the bicyle from summers of youth past.

When they get to the reservation, nothing changes between them in their social relationship because Thomas is and always will be the story teller in a culture that doesn't want to hear any more, but the relationship in their hearts has changed. Victor has changed and he has listened to and accepted Thomas's new and better story about his newly deceased father who wil leap as a salomon and "find his way home." Victor and Thomas are reconciled and, because of the reconciliation, Thomas closes his eyes and hears new stories once again.

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