Literary Essay Example: This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

Published: 2022-09-12
Literary Essay Example: This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  American literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 976 words
9 min read

'This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona' is a story written by Sherman Alexis based on his experiences and personal reservations regarding his place of birth and the environment he grew up in, that is Arizona. It details the chronicles of a man named Victor, and the tribulations he endures in his quest to recover the ashes of his dead father as well as his assets. The book is full of humor as well as serious scenes that do not escape the eye of a keen reader. It is also loaded with literary devices including symbolism, character, theme, and narration as well as irony. In this study, we explore some of those devices including the setting, the theme, and symbolism as used by the author.

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The setting of the story is in the latter half of the 20th century, in western Washington. It gives us a perspective of life as it was in the Spokane Reservation during that era and in Phoenix, Arizona. The book is laden with humor and irony and despite there being a mention of death, poverty, and violence, they are not the main themes in the setting of the story. The story itself comes from the authors own experiences at the reservations. While our protagonist is revealed to be somehow immature, the other character is revealed to have experienced the ups and downs of life and is thus mature enough to face the dynamics of life. Though the two have known each other from childhood, they have somehow lost touch as each tries to pursue different interests in life.

The plot of the story begins with the main character, Victor, losing his job at the Indian affairs Bureau back at the reservations when he receives the message of his father's passing on in the Arizonian city of Phoenix. He gets upset as they have not been in close communication but is delighted to learn that he left a savings account and other assets. Short on cash, he is left with no option but to seek the assistance of an old friend, Thomas, with whom he had lost touch with for some time. In this account, Sherman preaches to us the theme of forgiveness, as Thomas is revealed to hold no grudges for past unpleasing encounters with the main character, who also goes on to allow his old friend to tag along in the journey. Arriving at their intended destination after a long and rather uncomfortable airplane ride where the two disagree over their social skills, they learn that Victor's father had been missing for several days before he was discovered dead. As such, his apartment reeks, an allegory leading us to the conclusion that the deceased must have been a rather lonely man. This is further allegorized in the chapter where Thomas accidentally kills a rabbit while driving, and conclude that the said rabbit must have committed suicide due to loneliness, reflecting the loneliness experienced by Victor's father at the end of his life considering the fact that he was living alone at the time of the incident.

The irony is the most prevalent theme in the story. For instance, it is revealed to us that the two, even though they had been friends since childhood had lost touch but ultimately their relationship is revived in the most unlikely manner, by the death. Even though the two had trouble finding what they were looking for in their quest, they are able to salvage an old album in Victor's dad crib (a figurative symbolism of something that has been lost) that rekindles memories of a time when the deceased had helped Thomas when they were still young and visionless. It is revealed thus that Thomas had at the time promised his friend's father to look after the son and watch out for him as long as he could. It was for this primary reason that Thomas had assisted the main protagonist at his time of need and even accompanied to Phoenix to recover his dad's remains. In an ironical twist, it is thus revealed to us how their fate has been intricately intertwined even without either's knowledge. Yet in another ironical twist of fate, the two know that they would never remain friends after their return trip due to their different personalities traits and friends they each keep and actually end up splitting the deceased man's ashes in a bid to arrive at an agreement and as a bid to recognize each other and the tribulations they have encountered together. This final piece points to the ethical differences that exist in the society of the era and the inconveniences they bare to relationships.

The story of Victor and Thomas is a reflection of the actual elements that are present in our everyday life especially living in an ethnic society where one is not left with a choice to pursue their interests without judgment by the community and where relationships are shaped and solidified based on one's racial, political or other dividing aspects. The story's setting is reflective of the present day multi-ethnic American society and the various challenges experienced in an effort to co-exist with each other.

Works cited

Carol-davis. "Discuss the settings of the story "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona." eNotes, 4 Nov. 2012, Accessed 11 Oct. 2018

Charles E. May. "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona - Themes and Meanings" Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition Ed., Inc. 2004 11 Oct, 2018

Gale. Study Guide For Sherman Alexie's "This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona.". Gale, Cengage Learning, Pp. 1-23.

Richard, Abcarian. "This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona: Sp13 ENGL-2200-LO1". Usu.Instructure.Com, 2013, Accessed 11 Oct 2018.

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