Literary Analysis Of "what You Pawn, I Will Redeem" - ENG125 - Literary Analysis

1284 words - 6 pages

Literary Analaysis of “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem”
Kerry Kincade
ENG125 Intro to Literature
Angela di Gualco
July 19, 2017
Literary Analysis of “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem”
Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” is a multi-faceted and intriguing
account of Jackson Jackson, a homeless Spokane Indian, attempting to earn money to buy his
deceased grandmother’s powwow dance regalia from a pawnbroker. Jackson has lost his wife,
his children, his money and his home due to his disbelief in himself, but his loyalty to his tribe is
steadfast. As the story continues, it is evident that Jackson has a deep and passionate love for his
Native tribe and he has made that his sole focus in life. Alexie illustrates the power one’s love
for their heritage can be, and the effects that can have over one’s life and major decisions. When
we allow ourselves to be so consumed with dedication to one matter, we can limit our own
abilities to succeed elsewhere.
The main character, Jackson, lets the reader know from the beginning that he is not
perfect – he has been married several times, leaving each one of them (along with a few children)
and breaking their hearts. He is homeless as a result of his own choices, but he does not seem to
view this as a bad situation, altogether, as he states:
“If there’s such a thing as an effective homeless man, then I suppose
I’m effective. Being homeless is probably the only thing I’ve ever
been good at.” (Alexie, 2003, para. 3)
This morsel of self-reflection by Jackson lends to his internal conflict of believing himself to not
be good enough for others, although he is “acceptable” to himself. As Thomson (2006) has
pointed out, being homeless has become a part of his identity – it is who he is, and who he has
accepted himself to be, good and bad. Alexie has written Jackson’s character as a very dynamic
one, torn between his love for his tribe and his disregard for himself, or anything that is not tied
to the tribe. This dichotomy of passion versus disinterest within the main character leads to his
self-destruction and hindering his own successes. By addressing this in the story, Alexie has
brought forward what is almost a natural occurrence in the Native community – putting the Tribe
above all else, even one’s self.
As Jackson spends time roaming the streets with his “cousins” (other homeless Indians),
searching for ways to make money, frivolously throwing away the little bits he does earn (or win,
as with the scratch-off lottery ticket), Alexie writes in a stylized conversational manner, bringing
a sense of relatability to Jackson’s situation for the reader. Elements of humor, drama, and
candidness in Jackson’s tone make it easier to relate to him as another flawed human being.
Jackson’s human fallibility is evident in each of his attempts to earn ...

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