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

Sherman Alexie

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Course Hero, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Study Guide," December 12, 2016, accessed October 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Absolutely-True-Diary-of-a-Part-Time-Indian/.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Chapter 25 : In Like a Lion | Summary

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Summary

Junior is turning out to be a great player and shooter on the Reardan basketball team, to his surprise. Coach even suggests he play college ball. The thought of college intrigues Junior, since no one in his family or tribe has ever attended. The team has a winning streak, and other players get compared to famous athletes, but Junior doesn't. He wonders if a Native American can have a legacy in a white town.

When the time comes for the rematch with Wellpinit, Junior knows the white players will cheer him on. He draws two cartoons of himself: one in the Wellpinit gym, branded as a "white lover," and the other in the Reardan gym, being cheered to victory. Both cartoons wonder, "Who am I?" Nevertheless, Junior is determined to beat Rowdy.

A local news crew interviews Junior before the match and asks how he feels playing against his old teammates. Junior can only describe the situation as weird. After the interviewer prods him, Junior says he's had to grow up too fast and that he's learned every moment and choice in his life is important. When Junior refuses to share his resolutions on camera, the interviewer gets angry. Junior finally tells him he's nervous, especially about confronting Rowdy, and that he wants to "destroy" Rowdy on the court.

Junior tries to address the camera again. He says this is the most important night of his life, and he needs to prove he'll never give up—not just in basketball, but in life. In the locker room the players all encourage Junior. Coach goes over the game plan and says he wants Junior to start and guard Rowdy for the whole game. Junior doesn't think he can do it, but Coach tells him he can. Junior thinks the words, "You can do it" are the most amazing words anyone can say to him.

He runs onto the court with the rest of the team. The crowd cheers Reardan and boos Wellpinit. When Rowdy and Junior face off, Rowdy says Junior won't be able to stop him. As the game begins Rowdy races toward the basket with the ball. Junior jumps higher than Rowdy, for the first time in his life, and takes the ball out of his hands. Then Junior sticks his tongue out at Rowdy and shoots a three pointer. The gym cheers.

Junior doesn't make another shot in the game, but his first victory sets the tone, and Reardan wins by 40 points. Junior's cheering teammates hoist him on their shoulders. Junior's thrilled, until he looks at his dad quietly watching the defeated Wellpinit team. Junior remembers that most of the Wellpinit kids have rough home lives and no promise in their future, and some face abuse at home. Meanwhile, the Reardan team is hopeful and headed for college. Junior feels ashamed at his own rage and pain. He goes to the locker room and cries.

Later in the year the Reardan team loses in the playoffs after an undefeated season. All the players weep, even Coach.

Analysis

The power of expectations shows how much Junior has truly transformed since coming to Reardan, where every student is expected to succeed. His final speech to the news crew, when he asserts he'll never give up or surrender on or off the court, marks Junior's growth throughout the book. He's no longer second-guessing his decisions. He's confident, focused, and courageous.

But he's still in the throes of an identity crisis. He feels "exposed and primitive" when the news crew interviews him, suspicious they're seeing him as less than human. He realizes this game means several things: it will justify his presence in Wellpinit, give him a chance to prove his "warrior" status, earn his coach and parents' faith in him, honor his dead relatives and friends, and put him in direct competition with Rowdy. He's avenging himself against his avenger.

The scene is quick and lively, with plenty of dramatic tension. The reader roots for Junior and celebrates when he celebrates. Before, Junior has succeeded with the help of others. He knows he'll need their help again. Only now he calls on the dead, the ghosts. He calls on hope, not just his but his parents' for him. He knows a win isn't just a win for him; it's a win for Wellpinit, for Native Americans. Or is it?

Junior's victory is a pyrrhic victory. This term comes from the ancient Greek soldier Pyrrhus, who won in a battle but lost so many troops that the victory was meaningless. Junior's win comes with devastating consequences. The Wellpinit kids, who have less to hope for, won't earn a victory that could mean a lot to them. And Rowdy will suffer direct physical consequences. As Junior says, every choice he makes is important. And being a warrior, winning, isn't enough.

The game marks a turning point in Junior's self-evaluation. Junior's proven himself to Rowdy, but what has he proven? Will his posture of victory cost him his best friendship? What else will success at Reardan cost him?

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