The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Study Guide

Sherman Alexie

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Chapter 11 : Halloween | Summary



On Halloween Junior doesn't go to school in costume. He jokes he's dressed as a homeless man in his usual clothes. Penelope dresses as a homeless woman to protest the treatment of the homeless in America. She plans to collect spare change instead of candy while out trick-or-treating that night. Junior offers to do the same on the reservation.

When Junior collects change in his neighborhood, several people, including his parents, give change gladly. But even more slam the door in his face. Three kids in masks kick him, spit on him, and steal his money. Junior wonders if Rowdy is one of the people that beat him up.

Junior tells Penelope about the attack the next day. She's horrified and offers to put Junior's name on her own collection. Junior tells her it feels good to help people, and she agrees. But the brief connection with Penelope doesn't make him more popular with her or anyone else.


The commentary on Junior's "homeless dude" costume and Penelope's well-meaning costume is sly and multilayered. Penelope, from a wealthier family than Junior, can afford to put on the effects of poverty and raise awareness. Junior doesn't have that luxury. Even when he collects money, he knows he's a poor person collecting from other poor people. At the same time he's aware the homeless often have it worse off than he does.

When he faces violence (again), the spit—the dishonor—hurts him worse than the physical pain. For the first time Junior's experiencing the consequences of his school transfer at home. He felt honorable for a while, then realizes the impact of what he's doing. Does gathering money from poor members of his reservation hurt them as much as it helps others? Now that Rowdy's changed from protector to potential enemy, does Junior have to hurt him to be a warrior? Will Rowdy hurt Junior brutally, or does he still value the friendship?

Penelope's question about the doctor implies her own easy access to health care, which (per the first chapter) Junior doesn't have. Junior feels pressure to say "something memorable, something huge" so he appeals to her sense of charity. Now that he has a chance to change what people think about him—to not be the loser kid on the rez anymore—he wants to make every moment count. But he's not sure how.

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