ENGL 129 Reflection 3 FINAL
1 April 2018
The Role of James in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
James’s role in Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is critical in the shaping of how Victor changes as a character. From the start of the novel, we see that Victor’s life is shaped by alcohol, drugs, divorce, and fighting. Sadly, this type of lifestyle is common for most who live on a Native American reservation. However, as soon as James is brought into Victor’s life, Victor’s morals and lifestyle begin to change in order to satisfy the needs of James, who becomes his child through Native American tradition. Victor’s life shifts from that of an alcoholic to a lifestyle shaped by fatherhood and responsibility.
The transitional period of Victor’s life can be outlined from the visit to the hospital after the fire to the time when he enters an AA group. Whenever Victor goes to visit James, Frank, and Rosemary at the reservation hospital, he admits that he “got drunk just before” his arrival in order to cope with his strange fear of hospitals. At this time period in the novel, it is more than obvious that Victor is struggling with alcoholism. It is running his life no matter the occasion. Despite the underlining of Victor’s alcoholism, this part of the novel becomes important because it is when Victor decides to take in James. Soon after Victor’s decision to take in James, the transition of Victor’s lifestyle becomes more clear to us. Victor begins to narrate his fatherly duties as he describes his daily devotion to change, wash, and feed James. Victor states that James has become “his religion.” This statement is largely important since he has been the caretaker of James for no more than a few months at this time in the novel.
Even though we can start to see Victor develop responsibility, the state of living that he has James in is still not suitable. Cockroaches continue to reside in Victor’s home and holes become the only source of decoration for the walls. With such imagery, it is apparent that Victor still does not have his life in order completely. However, despite the treacherous living conditions for a child, Victor does continuously take James to the doctor because he has yet to cry. Victor becomes worried that James is not fully developing and shows glimpses of responsibility as he continuously schedules check-ups for James. Although the doctors claim this to be normal for Native American children, Victor’s worry does not reside.
The next transitional stage of Victor’s lifestyle comes with the aid of Suzy Song, who becomes a mother figure for James as the novel progresses. Instead of putting James on the sideline as Victor plays basketball, Victor hands James over to Suzy. By doing so, James is kept in good hands and out of harms way, as we know basketball players spontaneously dive around the edges of the court where James was previously stationed.
Even though Victor is starting to detach from the traditional Native American lifestyle, he still can’t “remember nothing except the last drink” he had. He even gets so drunk that he leaves James at a random house party. Victor is still constrained by alcohol, but eventually the companionship of James overthrows such a lifestyle. As time progresses and Victor realizes the destruction of his alcoholism, he decides to join Alcoholics Anonymous, a group designed to stop those struggling with alcoholism. This was the final transition that Victor needed to complete in order to live out a better lifestyle.
The implication of Victor’s more humane lifestyle is linked to the bringing in of James. The presence of James motivated Victor to change from his stereotypical Native American lifestyle to that of a more suitable lifestyle for those with children. From this point in the novel and onward, Victor became more responsible and coherent to James’s needs. Also, this transformation led Victor to an alcohol-free life, which as we understand, plays a huge role in the Native American reservation community. Therefore, we can label James’s role in the novel as the force that drove Victor from a destructive lifestyle to one containing fatherhood and hope.
Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Distributed by Grove Press New York, 1993.