The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Most Significant Conflict

In Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,  the most significant conflict of Junior, the protagonist, is Junior’s constant struggle against poverty, as it is prevalent throughout the entire story and causes the people around him to make assumptions. Alexie clearly shows this conflict when Junior makes a statement about petrified wood. The teacher, Mr. Dodge, immediately refuses to accept Junior’s correction and sarcastically retorts, “Where did you learn this fact?[…] Yes we all know there’s so much science on the reservation”(85). Mr. Dodge and the rest of his white classmates consider Junior’s statement to be inferior, basing it on the assumption that poor people don’t have a good chance at education and don’t know what they are talking about. They believe his opinions to be invalid and unfounded based on this belief, which makes it difficult for Junior to display his talents and find success. Even when Gordy, the class “genius”, gives the same answer as Junior, Mr. Dodge only thanks Gordy, refusing to acknowledge that a poor, Indian child like Junior is correct. Additionally, his poverty interferes with his wants. Junior wants to be able to show off to Penelope and buy them a luxurious feast of pancakes, toast, and juice, but is unable to pay for it all because of his lack of money. He orders a plethora of food, “even though [he] knew [he] wouldn’t be able to pay for any of it”(125). His inability to pay for a single meal hurts Junior’s pride and exposes his fear of Penelope rejecting him because he is poor. Additionally, his poverty perpetuates his fear of Penelope and Roger “[finding] out [he] was a poor […] Indian. He fears that if they find out, his status will drop and his relationship with Penelope will end, resulting in Roger and Penelope becoming a couple, and Junior being left outside of the relationship. The continuous appearance of the difficulties caused by Junior’s poverty, and the influence it has over the views of the people around him makes this the most significant conflict.

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