Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sherman Alexie - "Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock"

Readers begin to see the separation of the father/son relationship as the author describes the father’s alcoholism and its effects.  It is clear that the son is desperate to connect with his father in ways that go beyond storytelling:
“Jimi Hendrix and my father became drinking buddies.  Jimi Hendrix waited for my father to come home after a long night of drinking.  Here’s how the ceremony worked:
1. I would lie awake all night and listen for the sounds of my father’s pickup.
2. When I heard my father’s pickup, I would run upstairs and throw Jimi’s tape into the stereo.
3. Jimi would bend his guitar into the first note of “The Star-Spangled Banner” just as my father walked inside.
4. My father would weep, attempt to hum along with Jimi, and then pass out with his head on the kitchen table.
5. I would fall asleep under the table with my head near my father’s feet.
6. We'd dream together until the sun came up." (88)
The dissent between the main character's parents wears on the child, but he takes it with a grain of salt as though it is just something that he is supposed to do:
"I stood back and watched my parents argue.  I was used to these battles.  When an Indian marriage starts to fall apart, it's even more destructive than usual...Indians fight their way to the end, holding onto the last good thing, because our whole lives have to do with survival." (91)
The son's point of view is altered by his father's teachings and affects the way he remembers the end of his parent's relationship:

“Instead of remembering the bad things, remember what happened immediately before.  That’s what I learned from my father…
Because of all that, my father always remembered the second before my mother left him for good and took me with her.  No.  I remembered the second before my father left my mother and me.  No.  My mother remembered the second before my father left her to finish raising me all by herself.
But however memory actually worked, it was my father who climbed on his motorcycle, waved to me as I stood in the window, and rode away.” (92)

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