Dreamweaving Essay Example
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The main theme of this short story, “This is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona,” by Sherman Alexie, is that of two reservation Native Americans helping each other out even though they are no longer really friends. They have grown up together and hung out together a bit as children, but as adults they have gone their separate ways. Victor and Thomas Buildsthe-Fire are the two main characters; both seem quite alone in the world and in some odd way, they need each other at this time. So these two “misfits” come together when Victor’s father dies and he needs to make the trek to Phoenix to take care of his remains, liquidate his savings account, and retrieve his dad’s pickup truck.
Thomas Buildsthe-Fire is perceived of as an oddball on the reservation by just about everyone, because he has dedicated his life to weaving stories, which he tells all the time, whether anyone is willing to listen to him or not. He also seems to have a talent for seeing thing in the future. Once, when they were both seven years old, and Victor's father still lived with his family, Thomas closed his eyes and told Victor this story: “’Your father's heart is weak. He is afraid of his own family. He is afraid of you. Late at night he sits in the dark. Watches the television until there's nothing but that white noise. Sometimes he feels like he wants to buy a motorcycle and ride away. He wants to run and hide. He doesn't want to be found.’” AndThomas was right.
After that, Victor’s father disappeared, moved to Phoenix, and it seems that that there was very little contact between Victor and his father after that, until Victor gets the news that his father has died and he tries to put together the money to get to Phoenix. The Reservation is able to give him only $100, and that is not nearly enough for even one bus ticket. But Thomas offers him the money, “"I can lend you the money you need," Thomas said suddenly. "But you have to take me with you."
"I can't take your money," Victor said. "I mean, I haven't hardly talked to you in years. We're not really friends anymore."
"I didn't say we were friends. I said you had to take me with you." And so, Thomas took Victor with him.
It turned out that many years before, Victor’s father had told Thomas that he and Victor needed to “take care of each other,” but Victor did not know this. So there was a relationship between Victor’s father and Thomas that went back to childhood, that involved Victor too.
Incidents that might have seemed trivial under other circumstances become quite profound in this story. Most of the way driving back from Phoenix to the Reservation, Victor and Thomas see no animal life at all. Finally, just after Thomas has taken the wheel, a jackrabbit runs out beneath their wheels, and the truck kills it. They stop, go back, find it dead, and decide between them that the rabbit must have been intent on suicide. But it really shakes them up. "The only thing alive in this whole state and we just killed it." Victor goes back to driving, both of them thinking that maybe Thomas is unlucky.
The relationship between Victor and Thomas Buildsthe-Fire as children evolves as stories and memories surface. Victor remembers stepping into a hornet hole and Thomas rescuing him; he also remembers the time that he beat Thomas to a pulp for no particular reason. Things on the reservation seem to happen in an almost random way sometimes. One might think that this trip they have taken together could be greatly transformational, but instead it feels more like things will go more or less back to the same old, same old. “Victor knew that Thomas would remain the crazy storyteller who talked to dogs and cars, who listened to the wind and pine trees. Victor knew that he couldn't really be friends with Thomas, even after all that had happened. It was cruel but it was real. As real as the ashes, as Victor's father, sitting behind the seats.”
"I know how it is," Thomas said. "I know you ain't going to treat me any better than you did before. I know your friends would give you too much shit about it." And Victor doesn’t protest that this isn’t true, but he still feels the need to thank Thomas in some way. And so, impulsively, he hands Victor half of his father’s ashes. Thomas tells Victor that he will make a trip to the Salmon River to scatter the ashes, right where he met up with Victor’s father on a long-ago adventure, and it turns out that Victor had the same plans for his half of the ashes, though Thomas spun out a long fantasy about Victor’s father turning into a sparkling salmon, and Victor had more mundane imagery, like cleaning out the attic and tossing the ashes some day.
They need to part now and go back to their lives, but something still needs to happen to mark the end of the story. "Just one time when I'm telling a story somewhere, why don't you stop and listen?" Thomas asked.
"Just once?" (Victor asked).
So Thomas has finally gotten what he wanted all along: a promise that someone he cares about will listen to one of his stories. (Actually, Victor seems to have listened to his stories throughout much of the journey.) But this is a formal agreement that Victor will listen, hopefully with rapt attention, to a story of Thomas’s, which will thereby make Thomas feel acknowledged and important. Thomas’s whole life is his stories, and he needs for someone significant to promise to pay attention to him! And Victor needed Thomas’s company on this trip, as well as his money. In some odd way, they were fated to come together for this journey, even if everything mostly goes back to being the same when they return to the Reservation.
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