Free Essay Example - Beyond Stereotypes: Navigating Identity in Alexie's Novel and Personal Reflections

Published: 2024-01-14
Free Essay Example - Beyond Stereotypes: Navigating Identity in Alexie's Novel and Personal Reflections
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Violence Literature Community
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1887 words
16 min read


Stereotypes are vital challenges in society that undermine an individual's perception of others. They comprise generalized attitudes towards a specific group of people, which is often inaccurate. Alexi's novel "The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" gives a detailed overview of stereotypes towards Indigenous people and how they affect their social, psychological, and emotional well-being. Notably, they are caused by a misunderstanding of others' culture or negative attitudes. For example, Cartier's clip reveals how English explorers misunderstood the Indigenous elders leading to the naming of Canada (Cartier 1:00) Stereotyping caused challenges for Junior as he tried to live in two different worlds; one where there was hope and another filled with "inevitable" poverty, alcoholism, and death. Noticeably, Junior's situation is similar to those faced by other minorities in Canada, including me given that I am an Iraqi living in Canada. Stereotypes towards Iraqi women in Canada are closely associated with the "Jihadi Women" notion following the involvement of Canadian women in ISIS caravans in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have learned to live past the challenges, especially those associated with wearing a hijab, which is a religious practice that I am happy to withhold just as Junior persevered. Because stereotypes in multicultural communities can create challenges in identity formulation, especially Indigenous persons like Junior who were often perceived as poor, alcoholic, and violent, individuals need to be resilient in their quest for a better life beyond the generalization.

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Alexi's novel reveals the stereotypes towards Indigenous people as one filled with poverty. Through Junior's life, readers can identify how Indigenous people in the reservations are thought to be poor by other races in such a way that nothing good can arise from the place. In the novel, during an emotional reflection, Arnold states that" because you are an Indian, you start believing that you are destined to be poor. It is an ugly circle..." (13). The monologue expresses the dominant perception of First Nations towards Indigenous persons, where they believe that they must live with abject poverty. The poor perception adversely affects members of the community trying to create a new identity in a different setting. In this case, Junior's initial exposure to white society in Rearden school makes him acknowledge his minority state. After throwing a book at his teacher, the protagonist decides to leave the reservation to a school in Rearden, which is a few miles from home after being advised that there is no future for him there. Even the Indigenous people had developed a mentality that they needed to move from their community to pursue their dreams elsewhere. Alexis portrays the poverty-stricken state of Juniors in Rearden School in such a way that it enhances the stereotype among Indigenous people. For example, Junior often misses lunch because his parents have no money. He also depends on his father's friend to commute to school after lacking gas money. He is embarrassed by his situation and tries to hide it from other white students, who are portrayed as wealthy. He often gave excuses that he had forgotten his wallet at home. Despite his friends such as Penelope and Gordy being wealthy, their socioeconomic status did not shield them from pain and problems

For example, Penelope is popular and beautiful; however, she has bulimia while Gordy faces challenges in relating to others because he is emotionally isolated despite being bright in class. Therefore, one can perceive that problems faced by the poor and the privileged have a big difference. Nevertheless, Junior acknowledges that poverty is more damaging since it prohibits individuals from having hope and pursuing their dreams.


Alcoholism is one of the lenses which stereotyping can be observed in Alexi's novel. Typically, Indigenous persons are portrayed as drunkards who have minimal hope in life. In this case, Junior outlines his family and community as alcoholics. He notes that "I know only, like, five Indians in our whole tribe who have never drunk alcohol" (158). The situation devastates and angers the protagonist, especially when he experiences tragedies such as deaths caused by the issue. The author portrays Junior as well as aware of the consequences and repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle and drinking habits. Moreover, just as alcoholism is portrayed in most families living in poverty, Junior's father used alcohol to escape reality. For example, the protagonist explains how his father would evade for days for a drinking spree using the little cash the family had because he could not afford to buy holiday presents. The situation disappointed Junior to the point that he resented his father for his irresponsible drinking habits. The relationship with his father is stained by the issue as the protagonist constantly believes that his father would have afforded to give their family a decent Christmas celebration. For example, when Junior's father came home after a Christmas drinking spree and gave him five dollars as a present, he received it because he was able to see his father's sacrifice beyond his disappointment. He believed that his father may have made a great sacrifice saving the money for him instead of buying cheap alcohol. He perceived the gift as "a beautiful and ugly thing" (151) because if his father could have stayed at home, he would have probably provided a better Christmas experience.

Moreover, the novel enhances the stereotype through characters such as Junior's sister who died due to excessive drinking. Throughout the narrative, one can identify that Junior was no stranger to the deaths of loved ones caused by alcoholism. The mainstream culture in North America often perceives Indigenous persons as irresponsible drunkards contributing to their gullible dependence on cheap liquor. Notably, Junior reflects that "I mean, the thing is, plenty of Indians have died because they were drunk. And plenty of drunken Indians have killed other drunken Indians" (158). In this case, the author establishes the alcoholism stereotype by revealing how Junior believes that death by alcohol for indigenous persons is inevitable. Noticeably, when his sister elopes from home with his drunkard boyfriend, the last thing Junior expects is her death. Her sister died from burning together with her boyfriend as they were extremely drunk to felt that their car was burning. His father tried to comfort him that his sister did not feel pain when dying since she was drunk, but the pain was unbearable for the protagonist. Additionally, he was also devastated by the death of his father's friend, Eugene, and his grandmother, which were caused by alcohol.

Noticeably, alcoholism did not only cause deaths directly; instead, the whole community faced challenges collectively. For example, Junior's grandmother was hit and killed by a drunk driver. He also admired his grandmother as one of the rarest Indians who had never tasted alcohol. He noted "But my grandmother had never drunk alcohol in her life. Not one drop. That's the rarest kind of Indian" (158). The death makes him believe that all Indigenous people would eventually die of alcohol regardless of whether they consumed it because it was inevitable. The author uses Junior to highlight the stereotype that all Indians are alcoholics, which is responsible for their deaths, which might not be the case for everyone. Moreover, Alexis shows that, unlike other communities where senior people die of old-age and related complications, people in the reservation do not get to enjoy the privilege as they will eventually die of alcoholism even among those who did not consume liquor.


The novel exposes the stereotype that Indigenous people are violent. In this case, Junior is portrayed as a victim of physical and verbal abuse throughout the plot. The situation mirrors a reflection of life on the Indian reservation. For instance, the protagonist was born with a development challenge that made him vulnerable to bullying by his community members. He stated that Everybody on the rez calls me a retard about twice a day. They call me retard when they are pantsing me or stuffing my head in the toilet or just smacking me upside the head" (Alexie 13). Moreover, his friend Rowdy is revealed as a victim of physical abuse and a violent character, who is often scared of Junior. The situation follows the protagonist into teenagerhood, which forces him to avoid various sports activities such as Spokane Powwow on the reservation. On the other hand, Rowdy's parents, who were also alcoholics, physically abused him when they were drunk. The author gives a succinct distinction between life in the reservation and Rearden by showing how Junior was shocked to notice that physical violence was a taboo in the latter, while it was expected and encouraged in his community. He also noticed that despite how disagreements o altercations were in Rearden, they would rarely result in a fight. The violence would also lead to death most times as revealed through Eugene's shooting by a drunk person.

Personal Reflection

Junior's plight in the novel is similar to my life experience as an Iraqi-Canadian woman. Adopting an ideal identity amidst the cultural clash and stereotypes towards my kind has not been an easy process. Notably, stereotypes can transcend in an individual's academic social, or professional life due to misunderstanding of others' culture or way of life. For example, Frank Pagahmabow was an Indigenous Canadian War hero who often faced stereotyping as his comrades thought he practiced voodoo (Elliot 94). Due to the involvement of women in ISIS in Iraq, most persons believe that women in Hijabs are part of extremist groups. The situation has subjected me to thorough check-ups and ransacking of my handbags in most malls. I have also been a victim of an abusive slur aimed at linking me to terrorist activities. The stereotype is damaging since not all Muslims are violent or subscribe to extremist doctrines. Instead, some of us are peaceful and strive to lead sustainable lives as normal people despite our religious inclination.

Additionally, I often feel like Junior given that I have to fit within two different cultures with extreme perceptions towards each other. Family restrictions associated with being a woman in my community often clash with my desire to fully integrate into mainstream society. Just as Syu Kyung Yi notes, it is difficult to assume two identities at the same time (359). On one hand, I had to observe restrictive gender roles to be an ideal woman in my community, while on the other hand, I always wanted to practice my feminist world perception. The split personality situation is often worsened by its intersection with stereotypes. I hope that I will one day be able to enjoy the benefits associated with being part of two cultures without either of them limiting my ambitions as a young woman.


Overall, stereotypes allow the creation of generalized perceptions toward specific groups or communities. Alexi's novel does not shy away from explicitly highlighting various stereotypes such as Violence, alcoholism, and poverty associated with Indigenous people in Canada. The stereotypes are evident throughout the protagonist's life as he struggles to create his identity amidst two different worlds. The situation is similar to mine and other Canadian Immigrants whom we have to fight beyond the imaginary conceptualizations to achieve our life goals.

Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney. The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Recorded Books, 2008.

Cartier Jacques. "Heritage Minute." YouTube, uploaded by Encore, 31 Dec. 2018,

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