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How is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian alcoholism theme discussed? How does Junior deal with the issue of alcoholism amongst Native Americans?
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, alcoholism is ever-present in Junior’s life. His father is an alcoholic, his mother is an ex-alcoholic, and many people on the reservation struggle with alcoholism.
Keep reading to find out more about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian‘s alcoholism theme, and how Junior deals with the many issues related to alcoholism.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Alcoholism Theme
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, alcoholism is a consistent theme. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian alcoholism theme is explored through Junior’s family and other residents of his reservation who struggle with the issue of alcoholism amongst Native Americans.
On the first day of his Freshman year of high school, Junior’s so excited about learning geometry that he opens his textbook to kiss it. As he leans in, he sees “Agnes Adams” written on the inside cover. Agnes Adams is Junior’s mom.
With horror, Junior realizes that the book he’s holding is at least thirty years old. To him, the fact that his tribe is so poor that students have to use the same books their parents did is the “saddest thing in the world.” He feels his hopes for the class, and for his life, evaporate.
Without really understanding why, he suddenly hurls the textbook across the room, hitting his teacher in the face and breaking his nose. Consequently, Junior’s suspended, the first time he’s ever gotten into trouble at school.
Junior doesn’t realize it at the time, but this moment of anger signals his refusal to accept the poverty, alcoholism, and poor education that his fellow Spokanes take for granted. The teacher whose nose Junior has broken is angry with Junior, but he also understands, better than Junior does, the feelings behind Junior’s anger. He advises Junior to leave the reservation, and Junior decides to transfer to Reardan, the rich, redneck, racist farm town where the white kids go to school.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian alcoholism theme continues to be explored when Junior heads to Reardan.
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian alcoholism shows up in Junior’s everyday life. Junior’s family doesn’t have money for presents at Christmas, so his father does what he always does when there isn’t enough money for something: He takes what they do have and gets drunk. He’s gone from Christmas Eve until January 2nd.
When he gets back, he’s so hungover that he can’t get out of bed. Junior goes into his room to say hello, and his dad apologizes about there being no presents at Christmas. Junior tells him it’s okay, but it isn’t. He realizes that he’s once again trying to protect the man who repeatedly breaks his heart, but he also knows how much his dad loves him and how hard his dad tries.
Deaths Caused by Alcoholism
Junior’s world is filled with deaths caused by alcohol. Junior’s grandmother dies when she’s hit by a drunk driver. The best friend of Junior’s father, with whom Junior is close, dies in a drunken fight over a bottle’s last sip of wine. Junior’s sister is drunk when she dies, which is why she doesn’t wake up in the heat of the fire. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, alcoholism is a part of Junior’s life, and is also a cause for a lot of his tragedies.
The day of Mary’s death, Junior’s mother is curled up on the couch, and Junior knows that she’s “now broken and that she’ll always be broken.” She pulls Junior to her and tells him that he better not ever have a drink of alcohol. Before he can respond, she slaps him. Then she slaps him again, hard, two more times. He promises not to drink, and she stops slapping him, but she doesn’t let him go. She cries and holds him like a baby for hours, soaking his hair and clothing with tears. For Junior, alcoholism amongst Native Americans shapes his life and his future.
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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