In Sherman Alexie’s story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”, he explores the challenging life of two Native American Indian men named Victor and Thomas on the reservation. The story communicates the childhood memories, relationships, and cultural aspects of Thomas and Victor’s life in Spokane (an Indian Reservation). In this story, Victor appeared to be mentally depressed because his father had died just after he lost his job. Although Victor’s father left Victor at a very young age, Victor’s genetic pain made him think to travel to Phoenix.
However, his poor financial situation left him with no other option than travelling with Thomas, an annoying storyteller and his childhood friend. The act of forgiveness, decency, and adaptive attitude helps Victor to survive in his painful and deserted life. The lack of family support and emptiness in Victor’s life made him to communicate and recover a friendly relationship with Thomas to overcome his hardships. As Victor was living in Spokane, his mother, and almost every member of a tribe were poor.
During Victor’s childhood, he had many good as well as unpleasant memories with his childhood friend Thomas, who always have something to say. However, after Thomas was grown up, nobody on the reservation wanted to listen to him because he tells the same story again and again. It was unfortunate time for Victor when his father living in Phoenix died because of the heart-attack, just after he lost his job. This sudden incident had left him in a pain of loss of relationships. He wanted to travel to Phoenix to get his father’s ashes. However, he did not have enough money to travel.
Even after borrowing one hundred dollars from tribal council, he was in great need of someone who could support him financially and emotionally. During that time, Thomas met Victor at the trading post and offered him money with a deal that Victor has to take him along the journey. It was very surprising that after a long time Victor was talking to Thomas. “Victor was embarrassed, but he thought that Thomas might be able to help him” (182). He did hesitate to accept the offer, but his emotional attachment and childhood memories with Thomas made him to accept the deal.
Thus, Victor’s positive attitude helps him to survive in the pain of loss by accepting Thomas’s offer. Victor’s willingness to adapt the change, his apologetic attitude, and his remorse for his past deeds help him survive in his broken lonely life. Victor’s relationship with Thomas was broken since they had a fistfight at the age of fifteen. Victor was drunk and he had beaten Thomas so badly for no reason that he could have died if a respectful old woman named Norma haven’t interrupted them. Even though, he had an ugly relationship.
Thomas provided financial and sympathetic support to Victor in need. This has made Victor feel emotionally painful because he regret the loss of relationships and struggles with his own identity. As per the deal, Victor travels with Thomas and reach the place where his father had died. On reaching that place, Victor said, “I never told you I was sorry for beating you up that time” (185). He apologizes Thomas for his past deeds and attempts to transcend his pain of guilt and loss. Thus, victor’s attitude and a change in behavior helps him to release the guilt and stress.
Victor’s act of forgiveness and his attitude to move ahead in life helps him to defeat his anger and loneliness. Victor’s father left him and his mother at a very young age. This incident had deserted his life and made him struggled to live a life on the reservation. On the journey of his life, he lost the sense of community and trapped himself in loneliness. However, when Victor and Thomas reached back to Spokane from Phoenix Victor was ashamed of himself. He shares the ashes of his father with Thomas. This action represent that he seems to thank Thomas for his kindness and attempts to rise himself from his isdeeds and suffering.
Additionally, he thinks that tossing the ashes in water will be like cleaning the attic or like letting things go after they stopped having any use (188). He forgives his father and decides to bring a change in his life. By the end of his journey with Thomas, Victor had learned a lesson of community. Thus, he finds survival by forgiving his father and adapting the change to continue living his life on the reservation. The act of adapting the realities and enduring the challenges of life without giving up contributed significantly to Victor’s survival.
The story begins with describing Victor’s unfortunate situation, his loss, and pain. This tragic situation may have left him struggling with pain, internal crisis, anger, and loneliness that he could never bring him out of it. However, he chos bring a change in his life and retrace his tribal ties to survive in his difficulties. Through the journey from Spokane to Phoenix with Thomas, Victor has triumphed to rise himself from the suffering, guilt, and emptiness by adapting the changes. As a final point, Victor finds himself and survives in his ups and downs by decency, forgiveness, and self-understanding.