Memory, a Voyage Into History Essay

Pages: 3 (1256 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Native Americans


With Sherman Alexie and his novel, Reservation Blues the novel centers are characters from the 1990's whose interactions include a talking guitar, the living dead, and other cosmic happenings. Like with Momaday, historic memory as well as tribal and individual memory play prominent roles within the world of the novel and allow the environment to represent those memories. On the surface, Alexie's novel is a story of twentieth-century American Indian bildungsroman. Because the characters in the story are reservation Indians, their passage into adulthood is burdened by the question of what kind of "Indians" they will be and who they will inevitably be.

Reservation Blues struggles with major questions of community and identity, with a similar style to Momaday in rapid changes in narrative points-of-view and achronological temporal dimension similar to other Native American literature. The novel interconnects past and present so the reader is both places at once via memory, dreams, and reincarnated spirits like the shape-shifting Coyote the characters name their rock band after. Frederic Jameson explains pn page 304 of his book: "History's competing narrative, memory, is often an embedded critical paradigm in ethnic texts (Stein, and Lehu 40 ). Like with Momaday, Alexie uses his perspective to retell his stories and his focus on the events to shape the way the characters behave. The stories becomes one with the authors.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Memory, a Voyage Into History Assignment

In the opening sentence of Reservation Blues, Alexie explains how memory and history will play amidst each other throughout the novel: "In the one hundred and eleven years since the creation of the Spokane Indian Reservation in 1881, not one person, Indian or otherwise, had ever appeared there by accident" (Alexie 3) . In Thomas-Builds-the-Fire's view (protagonist) nothing is by coincidence and keeping to memory the events assist in making sense of the past making it a significant way to heal the tribe's psychic well-being. "Five generations of Spokanes are buried on Thomas's reservation at Wellpinit, Washington, sixty-five miles from Spokane, and, although the weight of being the tribe's misfit storyteller, or cultural repository, has "bowed his legs and bent his spine" (Alexie 6). Herein lies the main difference between both books.

Alexie deals with how a tribe battles tradition and modernization. Unlike with Momaday who sought to preserve through memory the history of the Kiowa culture by integrating it into his own memories, the characters of Alexie's novel attempt to deny and forget who they are. They lose faith in their roots and culture leading them to become vulnerable to the dominant American culture. While Thomas tries to keep the traditions of the Spokane alive, the people ignore him to quell their pain. Eventually the magical guitar comes into play and Thomas tries to use music to activate their memory. But unlike the previous novel, history is the burden that everyone in America regardless of race carries as an important part of the American experience.

In conclusion, the two stories of N. Scott Monday and Sherman Alexie showcase Native American literature through their interconnected storytelling and use of environment to attach memory. Although they are during different times and with different experiences, the motive remains the same, to keep the memory of their people alive. After all, if anything is learned from Native American literature, is that the story is the history. The environment, the people, the memory is all within the story.

Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman. Reservation Blues. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995. Print.

Momaday, NS, and Al Momaday. The Way to Rainy Mountain. Albuquerque [N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1976. Print.

Stein, Linda L, and Peter J. Lehu. Literary Research and the American Realism and Naturalism Period:… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Memory, a Voyage Into History" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Memory, a Voyage Into History.  (2013, October 23).  Retrieved August 2, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Memory, a Voyage Into History."  23 October 2013.  Web.  2 August 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Memory, a Voyage Into History."  October 23, 2013.  Accessed August 2, 2021.