Sherman Alexie’s short story “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” is full of themes that explore the human experience. Some of the major themes include identity, family, and home.
Sherman Alexie was born on an Indian reservation in Washington state and has written extensively about his experiences as a Native American. In “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem”, Sherman Alexie explores the theme of identity and what it means to be a Native American.
The story’s protagonist, Jackson Jackson, is searching for his stolen regalia, which is a traditional Native American ceremonial outfit. For Jackson, finding his regalia is about more than just getting his property back; it’s about reclaiming his identity.
In “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” a short story by Sherman Alexie, Jackson Squared is a homeless alcoholic Indian who is on a quest to show that there are still good people in the world who are willing to assist others. “The pawnbroker didn’t know it was stolen,” says Jackson. “And, more importantly, I’m on a mission here. I want to be a hero; you know? I want to retake it like a knight” (Alexie 24).
Sherman Alexie uses Jackson to show that anyone has the potential to be a hero, no matter their social status or race. Sherman also writes about the theme of identity and what it means to be Native American in modern society. Jackson is struggling with his identity as he tries to figure out where he belongs in the world.
He feels like he does not fit in with either the white world or the Native American community. Sherman Alexie uses Jackson’s story to explore the theme of identity and what it means to be Native American in today’s society.
During an appearance on “The View” Tuesday, January 17, 2018, he explained that he doesn’t want people to sympathize with him because of his circumstances. He wants to show others that when someone is in a terrible position not everyone should give up hope. It’s considerably simpler for most people to give up than it is to think things will get better.
Jackson is different, he has hope and wants to fight for what he believes in, even if the odds are against him. In some ways Sherman Alexie is trying to say that we should all be like Jackson, because giving up is never the answer. Sherman Alexie also uses sarcasm throughout the story to show how people can be judgemental. Sarcasm is used when Jackson is looking in the store window and he starts to list all of the items that he could buy with his last five dollars.
The way that Sherman Alexie words it, makes it seem as though Jackson is a terrible person for even thinking about buying alcohol and cigarettes. However, Sherman Alexie could also be using this sarcasm to show how people who have never been in Jackson’s position can be judgemental towards him.
Sherman Alexie also uses a lot of dialect in this story. He writes the dialogue the way that Jackson would actually speak it. This allows the reader to get a better understanding of who Jackson is and where he comes from. Sherman Alexie also uses imagery to describe different settings and characters throughout the story.
For example, when Jackson is looking in the store window he describes all of the items in great detail. Sherman Alexie also does a good job of making the reader feel sympathetic towards Jackson. He accomplishes this by showing how hard Jackson’s life has been and how much he has been through.
When a person is surrounded by riches, Jacks believes they are unable to enjoy what they have and will never consider what would happen if they were deprived of everything. “I’m aware of wealthy people. I know how much money someone has. And I understand that the more stuff they have, the less likely they are to understand how to live properly” (Alexie 77).
When Sherwin takes his grandmother’s regalia, he does not see it as a sacred item to be respected, but instead as a way to get money. He does not think of its sentimental value or what it means to his family and tribe. Instead he selfishly keeps it for himself and tries to sell it without any consideration for anyone else.
However, when he is faced with the possibility of losing his home and being forced to live on the streets, he begins to see the regalia in a new light. He starts to understand what it means to his grandmother and to his tribe, and he realizes that it is something that is worth far more than money.
He also begins to understand the importance of his heritage and where he comes from. He says, “I was Indian because my grandmother was Indian. And she was Indian because her grandmother was Indian. And her grandmother was Indian because her great-grandmother was Indian. I didn’t know any other way to be” (Alexie 84). Sherwin has always been proud of his heritage, but he has never really thought about what it means to be Indian.
He has never had to question his identity or wonder where he belongs. But when he is faced with the possibility of losing everything that is important to him, he starts to see things in a new light. He begins to question who he is and what his place in the world is. And he starts to realize that being Indian is more than just a label or an identity, it is something that is deeply ingrained in him and something that he will always be proud of.
“I sat next to Junior, smelling the smoke and salt and vomit, wondering if my grandmother’s cancer began when her powwow regalia was stolen. Maybe the disease started in her broken heart and spread to her breasts. ” (Alexie 15) In stating this, Jackson is implying that people should not let anyone take away their small hope of obtaining something better.
This is a powerful short story, with many themes and messages. The first theme is that of hope. No matter how bad things might seem, there is always some hope to cling to. As Jackson says, without hope people lose the true meaning of life.
Another theme is that of family. Family is important, and no matter what happens, they will always be there for you. They may not always agree with you, but they will always love you.
Finally, the last theme is that of identity. Who we are is often shaped by our past and our culture. Our experiences make us who we are, and we should never forget that.