Life is the trip, this is both a title and a famous
lyric from a Vietnamese song. Everyone always has one or many journeys in their life, their purposes are
mostly for relaxing, traveling, or going for work while the others make a trip
to define themselves. Arnold Junior, a boy in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian of
is one of them.
During the novel, he had a search for his own personal and cultural identity,
from a guy who doesn’t know who he truly is to realize that he isn’t alone in
the struggle to find himself and the fact of race, ethnicity in determining one
The struggle between Arnold with
himself starts after he changes his school. On the other hand, that’s also the
beginning of the search for Arnold’s personal identity. At the first day he
came to a new school – Reardan, he introduced himself to Penelope, ” “My name
is Junior,” I said. “And my name is Arnold. It’s Junior and Arnold.
I’m both.” I felt like two different people inside of one body. No, I felt like
a magician slicing myself in half, with Junior living on the north side of the
Spokane River and Arnold living on the south.” (Alexie 60-61). By the
introduction, Alexie shows that Arnold has been confused with his personal
identity. Since he didn’t know who he
really is, if he’s Arnold from Reardan or Junior from the reservation so he has
presented himself, he’s both of them.
There’s a twist in Arnold’s search
when Gordy said to him, “Well, life is
a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the
community.” (Alexie 132). From that moment, Arnold has realized that he wasn’t
alone in the struggle. Everyone has, everyone does have struggles with themselves in defining who they really are,
including people around him such as Penelope when she had a conflict between being
a bulimic, who she truly is, and being a perfect girl, that everyone expects
her to be. Besides, Gordy’s quote
also shows how the community acceptance has a great influence on the identity
of an individual.
identity is shown clearlier in this part, especially when Arnold understands, “I
was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the
tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to
the tribe of bookworms. And the tribe of cartoonists. And the tribe of chronic
masturbators. And the tribe of teenage boys. And the tribe of small-town kids.
And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners. And the tribe of tortilla
chips-and-salsa lovers. And the tribe of poverty. And the tribe of funeral
goers. And the tribe of beloved sons. And the tribe of boys who really missed
their best friends.” (Alexie 217). He knows that he belonged to many tribes
which are not based basically on his background or clan, but his own
characteristics. Finally, Arnold realizes that race and ethnicity do not define
himself, but his interests, interactions, experiences he had, determine who he
During the novel is the search for Arnold’s own personal and cultural identity from a guy can’t define himself to a boy who realizes that
he isn’t alone in the struggle to find himself and the fact of race, ethnicity
in determining one person. Many meaningful lessons are from his search.