This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona Analysis This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona, is a short story written in first person by Sherman Alexie, who is indeed a Native American from the Spokane Indian Reservation. Victor Joseph is the main character of the short story and is also known to be the narrator of This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.
Victor is a young man who has lost faith in his tribal traditions. The second main character of the story happens to be a young man who goes by the name of Thomas Builds-the-Fire.Thomas sanctifies his roots of the tribe and continues to practice his customs each day whereas Victor, who is completely opposite, continues to throw his traditions under the bus. Victor and Thomas happened to be great childhood friends in the past but their friendship started to deteriorate with age due Thomas’s exasperation of never ending stories. Will a tragedy in life rekindle an old friendship and allow Victor to relive his tribal traditions; or will the story end in an uproar of devastation and continue to lead Victor down the same path without even the slightest glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel?This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona, is a rather short story which begins by explaining the death of his father.
Victor was going through a trying time. He had recently just lost his job and then had to experience the death of his father which was caused by a heart attack. His father and himself hadn’t seen each other within the past couple of years but still kept in contact over the phone. During this time of despair, Victor’s wealth was sparse to none.Being that he was a part of a tribe, he decided to turn to the tribal council with hopes they would have enough money to lend him to bring his father back from Phoenix for proper burial in the reservation. His high hopes were soon shot down and was left with the offer of only 100 dollars to travel to phoenix and attain the remains of his father.
Victor knew there wasn’t a way to make this offer possible, and needed to find an alternative option in order to come up with the money needed to retrieve his deceased loved one.As a child, Victor grew up with a close friend named Thomas. Ever since Thomas was a young boy, he had always been very fond of telling people stories. The reservation described Thomas as, “The storyteller that nobody wanted to listen to. ” (pg. 274) Thomas was known as an annoyance and frankly flat out strange.
His storytelling happened to cause a loss of friendships. Victor ran into Thomas at the trading post after leaving the tribal council. Thomas knew the death of Victor’s father had occurred without even being told.He states, “I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds.
I felt it in the sunlight. ” (Pg. 274) Victor knowing the type of person Thomas is went along with his story. Thomas then gave him the offer that he would lend him the money needed as long as Victor would take him with him on the road. Victor put the offer into thought and eventually accepted. This began the start of their trip.
Sherman Alexie continues the story with many different literary aspects. A major aspect he uses throughout the story is known as a flashback.Flashbacks are events that have happened previously before the events that are currently being unfolded in a story. Alexie continues on with the story by explaining their plane ride to Phoenix, their second thoughts about going into the trailer of his fathers to retrieve any valuables that might be left behind, and then continues on to lead into a flashback. Thomas begins to explain the flashback by stating the time when Victor stepped into an underground hornets nest at the age of 12 and couldn’t pull free.Thomas just so happened to walk by and save Victor by pulling him free from the nest.
He relayed this story to Victor’s bravery of being stung by the hornets to the audacity it took Victor to step foot into the trailer of his deceased father, where his body lay wasting away for over a week in the searing Arizona heat before being found due to his wretched stench. The men retrieve a stereo and a photo album, stating it’s not much but it is better than nothing. They then continue on their journey and travel to the bank to retrieve the 300 dollars that was left in his father’s savings account.Alexie then continues to reveal another flashback about the event of Thomas jumping off a school building believing his arms would turn into wings and he would fly. His dream was short lived.
Not only does Alexie incorporate flashbacks into his story for the use of literary devices, but he also is fond of using symbolism. Symbolism is better known as the use of an object or action that means more than its literal meaning. After the men obtain the wooden box filled with his father’s ashes, they are then ready to head back to the reservation. In route on their way back, Alexie uses a long-eared jackrabbit as an object for symbolism.Thomas decided he would give Victor and break from driving for a while and so they switched places and got back on the road.
Only a few minutes had passed when Thomas ran over the only living creature they had seen on the entire journey back, a long-eared jack rabbit. Thomas states, ‘I think it was suicide. ” Victor then agrees. Alexie uses the rabbit as a symbol of loneliness in the story. The rabbit was the only living creature they had seen for hundreds of miles.
The rabbit symbolizes the loneliness Thomas experiences in life without having a friend by his side to lean on in times of need or to simply just keep him company.It is also a symbol of the loneliness Victor is experiencing for the loss of his father. Symbols can help incorporate a versatile meaning into a story and can allow different individuals to create their own outtake of the story. The ending of the story is where the theme tends to be most predominant. Victor and Thomas finally make an arrival into the reservation just as the sun began to rise. In a way their relationship has a new beginning yet it is a beginning that will not be shown to others on the reservation.
Thomas will continue to repeat his stories day after day and Victor will gradually become just another average Joe on the reservation that looks down upon Thomas. Before Thomas steps out of the truck, Victor wants to thank him and make a promise to pay it all back. Thomas simply stated, “Don’t worry about the money. It don’t make any difference anyhow. I know you ain’t going to treat me any different than you did before. ” Victor feeling ashamed yet knowing it was the truth handed over the extra box of his father’s ashes stating he wanted Thomas to have them.
Thomas thrilled, explains how he is going to distribute Victors fathers ashes over Spokane Falls, steps out of the truck and replies with one last statement. “Just one time when I’m telling a story somewhere, why don’t you stop and listen. ” Victor end the story with the line, “Just once. ” Many different themes would be possible for this story, but one of the stronger themes would be to not judge a book by its cover. Thomas is a man who continually gets judged by his fellow tribal members only because he lives each of his days to the fullest doing what he enjoys most, telling stories.In life you shouldn’t judge someone for their actions they take or the way the look on the outside.
It’s what is on the inside that matters most. Thomas is an ordinary guy just looking for a friend to have along his side. Each day he took the pain of being made fun of for his story telling and had to live with the despair of loneliness. But he never let the way of his life get in the way of helping others. Inside Thomas is a man with a heart of pure gold. He wants nothing more than to help those in need.