The Absolutely True Diary...

Of a Part-Time Indian

Theme One: Living with Poverty

Junior is a Native American who lives on a reservation. His parents are incredibly poor. Most of the people he knows are poor. He explains the cycle of poverty, but he does it in a funny way. "It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian, you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it."

It seems as if poverty has a way of affecting every part of Junior's life, from his dental appointments and consequences, to the eyeglasses he has to wear, to the food on the table. One day his teacher tells him he has to get off the reservation because all of the Indians have given up. He asks his parents if he can attend a "white" school 22 miles away to find hope and leave poverty-stricken people behind. However, doing this makes him into an outcast of sorts. At his new school, he tries to pretend to be middle class. One night after a dance, he has to admit that he's poor to his crush. By the time his new friends find out his socioeconomic status, they like his anyway. Here is a little change. See.

Theme Two: Figuring Out Who You Are

As Junior moves back and forth between the reservation and his fancy high school, he feels like he has two separate lives. He's not sure exactly where he belongs. He wants hopes and dreams, and he learns that being around the white people at Reardon High School is the best place to find them. Yet, he still lives on the Indian reservation. Because he doesn't attend school on the reservation, he does not feel as if he fits in there. And because he isn't rich and white, he doesn't exactly feel as if he fits in at school. He begins to find his niche on the Reardon basketball team, where he plays varsity as a freshman. It takes playing against the Indian team for him to realize how terribly the odds are stacked against the kids on the reservation. Later, he and his alienated best friend make up. He realizes that although he is an Indian, he will be a nomad - someone who does not stay on the reservation.
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How the Themes Relate...

In the beginning of the novel, Junior's poverty level affects all aspects of his life - including his self-identity, or self-image. As he spends more time away from the reservation, he learns more about himself and the world around him. He begins to experience hopes and dreams that he never had before on the reservation, which begin to define him more than poverty. This gives the novel a hopeful ending about his future.