single car driving across the desert

This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

by Sherman Alexie

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Student Question

What does the final sentence mean in "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"?

Quick answer:

The final sentence in "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" implies that Thomas Builds-the-Fire has had another life changing experience.

Expert Answers

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"This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" is one of the most significant stories in Sherman Alexie's collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. In this narrative, Victor travels to Phoenix to claim money from a savings account following the death of his father from a heart attack. Thomas Builds-the-Fire accompanies Victor on the journey, only because he has the money they need to get there. Until this moment in the book, Thomas had been mostly ostracized by Victor and his friends. This story, however, is a bonding experience that unites them, albeit a bit loosely. Alexie has a way of taking the reader along for a ride with a main character like Victor, while he subtly reveals a greater story happening to a less prominent character. "Phoenix" is just such an instance. The story ends with Victor driving off while Thomas enters his house and "hear(s) a new story come to him in the silence afterwards," not the only time occurs in the collection. The final sentence implies that Thomas has had yet another life changing experience that he will add to his repertoire.

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