Perhaps there are no other group of persons that have quite the rich and storied culture as those of Native Americans. They have a very rich history in having to conduct their self with the struggles and the strife that it takes to gain their independence. But what has current society, susceptible with the urge to place a stereotype on every race see them as? Alcoholic figures or singing elders with thick blankets.
Trying to come to terms with the oppositions he has with his father, the disappointments, and the collision he faces with the Native American stereotypes blending in with current society; comes a son who gently cares for his dad, and although his father was an alcoholic, It’s understood that the disappointments he has with his father’s drinking is purely insignificant to the love that they share.
Sherman Alexie’s “War Dances,” uses a darkly humorous and explicit writing style filled with profanity to reveal a theme of how one has to traverse the difficult waters of understanding how the people they love can disappoint them so much, yet it is their presence that is both desirable and longed when most needed. In most cases, profanity is perceived by many people as a result of poor training by parents who, for whatever reason, are too busy, too unconcerned to discourage their kids from using such ‘obscene’ behavior.
In ‘War Dances”, there is a different side to profanity. A way that presents foul language as an act of altruism. Alexie demonstrates this as he seeks ways to help his father : “an alcoholic, diabetic Indian with terminally damaged kidneys” (Alexie 52). Even though his father is responsible for his state of condition, his son takes a great deal of the concerns feeling sympathy for him, but doesn’t make any excuses for his actions. The disappointments that he has with is father are not merely as important as trying to ensure satisfactory health care for him so he could get better. As easy as it seems to find nurses to provide thick warm blankets to prevent him from being any colder, the health care provider “a nurse, an educated woman, not a damn housekeeper” (Alexie 52) at the hospital not only lacks the compassion to assist him but she also believes that “there [is] a point when doctors should stop rescuing people from their own self destructive impulses” (Alexie 52).
There are times where situations are not handled the way they should be, and in some cases the most common remedy for handling them is by using profanity to relieve the tension buildup. Alexie exemplifies this as he distinguishes a fine line between a nurse and a housekeeper. “Damn”, A profane term that he uses to serve as an emphasis, to make clear to those (primarily the nurses), who aren’t aware of their dedicating role to society: to assist those in critical need since of course, the patient’s life is in the hands of their fate.
Alexie manages to take this issue cautiously by detailing it in a rather profane and explicit style. He shows that directing his focus with anger is his way of overlooking the disappointments with his father. More importantly, his intentions to find his father a blanket to satisfy his needs is his way of of showing that his father’s presence is valued more than the oppositions that draws them apart. The narrator continuously uses profanity as a way to get across that the love for a family overrides complications that families have.
He also delves into this when he wishes to share a connection with his father during his MRI scan. The narrator suffers from hearing loss and it was his “first time inside a health-care facility since [his] father’s last surgery,” (Alexie 51) This gets ruined when he can’t find the same music selection as his father would listen to during his MRI scana. He begins to complain about the selection: “It was fucking Shania Twain and Faith Hill shit” (Alexie 60).
There is something about having a serious illness that mentally attacks the brain and forces it to direct all anger and frustration to something that is unnecessary. Such as the music selection, was it necessary to use such profane language at an inanimate object? Or had it just symbolized the by-product of something necessary to him. Despite his father living up to the ideal stereotype; for which he destroyed his life by drinking, the narrator deliberately chooses to be oblivious to it so that he could listen to the same music genre as his deceased father would listen to when he was having MRI scans.
He shows this when he says, “I wanted to choose the same thing he chose. So I picked country” (Alexie 60). Unfortunately for him, the hospital couldn’t provide what he wanted. It didn’t necessarily matter considering that “Thel couldn’t hear the shit anyway,” (Alexie 60) but the connection itself would be special. Alexie creates this situation as a way to show that even though family members disappoint us, it is their absence that we to miss the most, and we most often strive ways to regain their presence.
Though stereotypes had only ed to characterize Native Americans, criticizing them of their practices, the narrator discovered the perks of being oneonce he discovered another Native in the hospital that indeed, had carried a “room full of [thick wool] Pendleton star blankets” (Alexie 56) to satisfy his father’s desires. It was critical to the tradition of the Native Americans to be seen as holy, even if that meant they had to pretend to be. In this case, the native man’s father wished to bless the blanket by singing a song.
Well accustomed of the preserved lessons he knows of his heritage, and just another typical Native American stereotype; the narrator realized that “This was [going to be] dangerous” (Alexie 56). He states this in a humorous manner, knowing that the song did not serve as a miraculous recovery, that it wouldn’t somehow stop the urge for his father to quit drinking, or grow back his legs; he understood that it served as a temporary stress reliever.
It was concerning to him to see that the native man’s’ father could not even sing well. It seemed pretty self-explanatory to the narrator that “If you were going to have the balls to sing… you should logically have a great voice” (Alexie 56). In an unintentional laughing matter, Alexie incorporates the use of dark humor by mocking the old man’s good wishes. Although the blanket did not alleviate his long term illness as well as the disappointments that he has with his father, the blanket symbolized his act of altruism.
The narrator is informed that he has lots of irregularities that go on in his head by his doctor- perhaps cancerous and choses to lighten the mood by approaching them in a humorous way. In response to the doctor he says, “My head’s always been wrong”. (Alexie 65) He uses his sense of humor as a way to withhold his fear; in fear that he would have a brain tumor, he was scared, not only for himself but for his wife and children that represent the essence of his life.
From this, it is conspicuous that the Alexie has his ways of using both unintentional dark humor and profane use of language to expose how we tend to pay attention to the negative aspects in our lives and what we have in our families, ignoring the smallest things that turn out to have the biggest impacts. The narrator has his ways of giving the audience a way to evaluate the past as he remembers it. In doing so, his story is very innovative in its structure by switching between his father’s end and his time with death.
He manages to take a very difficult issue and approaches it without being depressing. By using a humorous, explicit, and profane use of language of getting things across, he establishes the value and meaning of family. Using his own experiences and the account of his fathers he clearly identifies family as a desirable and longed factor in life and that we shouldn’t let our disappointments overpower that. All in all, he creates a greater sense of respect than would have been possible if he had written in a more traditional tone.