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Native Americans in the United States: Literature Review

What you Pawn I Will Redeem

The narrator of the story by Sherman Alexie is a homeless man Jackson Jackson, a very unusual person with a generous heart, an “After Columbus Arrived Indian” (Perkins 402). He is a heavy drinking homeless Indian man, with bad health, leading a destructive lifestyle; Jackson says he is a good example of what colonialism has done to people of his nation. Poverty and bad habits are not the worst things that have happened to the Native Americans. Jackson misses having a family; he keeps grouping up with people, searching for unity.

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Native American religions are mostly based on the unity, then do not separate themselves from the world around and, most importantly, from other American Indians (Brown 120). Jackson desires to reconnect with his roots, stop being alone, he needs a family. He misses his late grandmother badly and says he has been “killing himself ever since she died” (Perkins 410).

The story presents Jackson’s struggle to buy his grandmother’s ritual dress from a pawnshop. Jackson has no money, but, miraculously, the shop owner gives him the dress for his last five dollars. Wearing the grandmother’s dress he no longer was alone, he was happy, he was dancing an Indian ritual dance together with his grandmother and his whole tribe.

The Third and Final Continent

We witness a story of an Indian man, who arrives to America and goes through many new experiences on his own, with no one to support him. While getting acquainted with American life, he eats only cereal and milk. Indians are known to prefer vegetarian meals (Sen 82).The man is waiting for the arrival of his wife – another stranger to him. He moves into a house of the old, Mrs. Croft, a memorable character, and a demonstration of the fact that cultural differences do not only appear between people belonging to different cultures but also to people coming from different generations.

The narrator’s wife’s name is Mala, their marriage was arranged and he “regarded the proposition with neither objection nor enthusiasm” (Perkins 421). When she joins her husband in Boston, he cannot help but feel uneasy in her presence, they don’t know each other. Mala does not fit into the new life, but Mrs. Croft approves of her. Her appreciation improves the couple’s relationship.

Both spouses are aware that they will have to go a long way to find understanding, but they have the persistence and patience to make it work. In the end, the narrator compares his journey to America to Armstrong’s trip to the Moon. Even though the Indian man is not the first one to live such an adventure, decades later he will still be impressed by his travel.

The Shawl

“The Shawl” is a story of a broken man, who got emotionally damaged in his childhood and carried the pain of the past through his whole life. He let that pain hurt his own children. He never rationalized his trauma; he always saw it with the eyes of a hurt child. Years later his own son, fed up with his father’s heavy drinking, suggests a new view on the depressing past. I want to believe that the man burned his dead sister’s shawl, to “send it off to cloak the spirit” (Erdrich 77).

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I hope he reconsidered his past, let go of the pain, the offense, and continued his life with a light heart. The story shows the right priorities – a person should care about living with close people, instead of killing themselves over some traumatic past. My compassion is on the side of the son of a heavy drinker, who was wise enough to save his father, his siblings and himself from constant sufferings, to raise the shawl of grief covering his family.

Works Cited

Brown, Joseph Epes. Teaching Spirits: Understanding Native American Religious Traditions. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

Erdrich, Louise. Sister Nations: The Shawl. Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002. Print.

Perkins. American Literature Since Civil War. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Create. 2011. Print.

Sen, Colleen Taylor. Food Culture Around the World. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 13). Native Americans in the United States: Literature Review. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/native-americans-in-the-united-states-literature-review/

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StudyCorgi. "Native Americans in the United States: Literature Review." January 13, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/native-americans-in-the-united-states-literature-review/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Native Americans in the United States: Literature Review'. 13 January.

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