The story, This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona by Sherman Alexie’s, presents a story which focus on the culture, traditions, and societal problems experienced by people of the Northern America, particularly the Indian ethnic group. It also highlights the social problems faced by the youth in the society and how they perceive and interpret the circumstances and traditions held by members of the society. The underlying message is that people can solve their problems through undertaking to help each other.
Throughout the story, the author, Sherman Alexie, presented Arnold Joseph, as a father figure to three different characters, Victor, Suzy, and Thomas who were not biologically related in any way. Sherman Alexie specifically chose to use the two characters, Thomas Builds-The-Fire and Victor to depict the differences that they had towards the Native Indian traditions, their contemporary way of thinking, and nature of relationship that they both shared with Arnold Joseph, and how those variations affected their individual relationship in the end.
Victor was a reckless young Indian man, who had no biological connection with all his family members except his mother. He grew up to be hostile and rebellious because his father abandoned him and the reservation at a tender age. That incident negatively impacted his life and he, therefore, resorted to drinking. Additionally, he never felt a real connection with the Native American Indian culture. On the other hand, Thomas was a kind and spiritual person who was so skilful in story telling. He often received visions through the sun, the spirits of the wind, and the birds. Thomas narrated his stories because it provided a chance for a sense of placement in the society.
Because both his parents passed away when he was young, Thomas was raised up by his grandmother. This gave Thomas an excellent chance to grow up learning good morals and traditional practices from his experienced Grandmother. On the other hand, Victor grew up with a drunken father who sometimes could hurt him with his mother. Thomas’ Grandmother acted as a custodian of the American Indian culture and she dutifully passed it over to her Grandchild who turned up to be foreseer and a good story teller. In addition to the traditional role that he played in the community, Thomas had a duty to watch over Victor.
Although, Victor did not realize it, Thomas had a peculiar kind of relationship with his father. One day, Thomas had a vision to visit a falls in Spoken, and he, therefore, travelled for more than fifty miles. On his arrival, he met Victor’s father. Victor’s father offered to take him out for dinner. That was then that Thomas realized that his dream had directed him to Victor’s father because a voice kept saying, ‘take care of each other”. At that time, Thomas did not understand much of his visions, but he latter on came to figure them out. The vision that Thomas received became immensely valuable in building up the entire story and providing essential meaning to it. It also made Thomas realize that people are made to reside in one society wit the intention of taking care of each other…
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