This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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Who is Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian? Why is Gordy important to Junior, and how do the two become friends?
Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is Junior’s first real friend at his new school. Gordy also shows him that learning can be fun, and helps him rethink how he views school.
Keep reading to find out more about Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and his friendship with Junior.
Junior Meets Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Junior continues to feel like he’s split in two: He wakes up as an Indian (Junior) and arrives at Reardan as a nobody (Arnold). No one talks to him or even looks at him. He eats lunch by himself and plays catch with himself during P.E.
On the plus side, Junior discovers that he’s smarter than almost everyone in the school. For instance, one day in geology class, the teacher marvels at how amazing it is that wood can turn into rock. Junior raises his hand, for the first time ever at Reardan, to correct his teacher, telling him that petrified wood isn’t actually wood.
Junior’s classmates are shocked that he’s bold enough to contradict a teacher, and the teacher is angry and indignant, telling Junior that if he’s so smart, he should tell the class how it works. Junior does, explaining that minerals take the place of wood molecules, so there’s no wood left by the time it has become “petrified wood.”
The teacher doesn’t believe Junior and mocks his shoddy reservation education, but Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is the class genius and raises his hand to confirm that Junior is right. Even the teacher knows that if Gordy says petrified wood isn’t actually wood, he’s right. The teacher thanks Gordy for sharing this interesting fact, ignoring Junior completely. Meanwhile, Junior thinks longingly of the days when he was treated like a human being and his teacher told him he was smart and deserved the world.
After class, Junior thanks Gordy for sticking up for him, but Gordy says he was sticking up for science, not Junior.
That night, Junior rides the bus to the end of the rez, where the line stops. As usual, he waits exactly thirty minutes for his father to pick him up, and when his father doesn’t show, Junior starts walking home. Often, Junior’s able to hitch a ride with someone, but three times, he’s had to walk the full 22 miles from the bus stop home.
Junior Gets a Study Buddy
Junior is himself inspired by his sister’s bravery. The next day, he approaches class genius Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, who says he’s too busy to talk to Junior because he has to go debug some PCs. Gordy’s mildly irritated because he prefers the “poetic” Mac to the PC. After Junior shrugs and says that “computers are computers,” Gordy sighs and asks if Junior wanted to talk to him or just bore him with tautologies. Junior doesn’t know what tautologies are, but he doesn’t want to let on that he doesn’t know and look like an illiterate Indian. But Gordy quickly gathers that Junior doesn’t know the term and teaches him that it’s a redundancy.
Junior asks if “Gordy is a dick without ears and an ear without a dick” is a tautology. Gordy says no, it’s not, but he thinks it’s funny and tells Junior he has a “singular wit.”
This is the inauspicious start of their friendship. Junior thinks Gordy is weird, but he also thinks he and Gordy have a lot in common. Junior believes that, just like he is, Gordy is lonely and terrified. While they don’t become best friends, they start to study together, and Junior finally has an ally at Reardan. Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian becomes his friend.
The Joy of Learning
One day, Junior is shocked when Gordy tells him that books should give Junior a boner. Not knowing what to make of that, Junior runs with Gordy to the library, where Gordy demands that Junior marvel at all the books.
Junior’s unimpressed. It’s a small library. Gordy confirms that there are exactly 3,412 books (he’s counted), making it a relatively small library. But he points out that you could read one library book a day and it would take almost ten years to read every book in the room. Even small pockets of the world are full of potential knowledge.
This makes Junior think of his hometown, Wellpinit, and he realizes that even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant places are full of mystery. Junior finally gets Gordy’s point and is in awe, understanding that the more you learn, the more you learn that there’s more to learn. This is the idea that Gordy thinks should give everyone a “metaphorical boner,” his comical term for joy. Gordy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian teaches Junior that the hard work of learning can be joyous.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian summary :
- How Junior gets split between two worlds when he goes to a mostly white school
- How Junior overcomes being an outsider to being part of welcoming social circles
- The tragedies of alcoholism and poverty that leave Junior with renewed strength