In Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the most significant conflict Junior faces is the set of stereotypes and expectations others want him to fulfill. As an indigenous boy living on the Spokane Indian Reserve, he is expected to live his whole life in poverty, just like everyone around him. As a poor person, his parents “came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people” (11). More importantly, “because [he is indigenous], [he starts] believing [he is] destined to be poor” (13). This stereotype tells Junior and everyone else on the reserve that they cannot amount to anything outside of poverty and hopelessness. Second, the stereotypes become even more apparent with Junior’s transfer to Reardan, an all-white school “whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making [him] the only other Indian in town” (56). Reardan’s mascot shows their idea of indigenous people, portraying them as a commodity to use as characters or as savage animals, not real people. Because of these stereotypes, Junior is ridiculed and singled out, being called names like “chief” and “Tonto”. However, Junior’s most challenging expectation is that he can only be part of one community at a time. When he transfers to Reardan, he “[figures] that [his] fellow tribal members are going to torture [him]” for leaving them (47). However, at Reardan, “the opposite of the reserve, [..] the opposite of [him]”, people “[stare] at [him] like [he is] Bigfoot or a UFO” (56). Junior can either be an hopeless indigenous person on the reserve or a privileged white person at Reardan, and to be one is to betray the other. He “[feels] like a magician slicing [himself] in half, with Junior living on the north side of the Spokane River and Arnold living on the south” (61). But Junior is strong enough to fight against these stereotypes. Because once he overcomes them, he doesn’t have to be one of the rich white kids or one of the poor indigenous kids; instead, he can be whoever he wants.
Is losing friends worth making a positive change for yourself?
Yes, because although weighing the value of your friends against your own well-being is difficult, in the end, it’s important to pay attention to your own needs. First, not everyone will understand why you need to make a change in your life. Nor can we assume they are even able to. Your friends only see the side of you that you chose to show them, and that one perspective might not tell them how important this change is. What means nothing in their eyes means the world to you. But if they are true friends, they will understand that they need to let you evolve positively, if that means going separate ways. Second, who you believe to be your friends won’t always have your best interests in mind. Sometimes, people you think are “friends” try to tear you down or use you for their own purposes. In some cases, ending relationships that aren’t healthy for either individual is the change that needs to happen in order to make friends who truly care about you and want to help you grow as a person. Finally, friends will come and go throughout all our lives. The only person with you from your first breath to your last is yourself. That’s why you should prioritize becoming the person you want to become, no matter what others think. Friends are essential, but if you know what needs to happen for you to be happy, then you can’t let others dictate how you live your life.
The darkness closes in around you, cutting off any contact with the world. Though hot, sticky sweat covers you, you can’t take off the covers. That’s because you feel the darkness beckoning to you, smiling eerily, and if you venture into the open air of your room the creatures hiding in the shadows will be unforgiving. Your teddy bear, as you clutch it tightly against your chest, is old and matted and stained. Even he can’t protect you. The digital alarm clock reads 3:02 a.m., which seems impossibly far from daylight. The clock’s sickly yellow light partially illuminates the room, but not enough to feel safe. The clothes in the closet are like the shapes of monsters, the faces of demons. You can practically smell the metallic odor of blood filling the room, suffocating you. The stack of books and papers on the desk is like a half-rotting creature watching you; who’s to say that’s not what it really is? The door is shut tight like the gate of a prison, trapping you with all your worst fears. You hear a sudden creak, like the footsteps of some bloodthirsty miscreation. It seems to come from the attic. The terror you feel is a noose around your neck, closing its sinewy, merciless hand around your throat. All you can do is pray that morning will come.
“The door that nobody else would go in at, always seemed to swing open widely for me.”
— Clara Barton
Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton was a nurse, educator and humanitarian who made major contributions to disaster relief and humanitarian aid. Barton has been remembered throughout history as a courageous philanthropist who was dedicated to caring for others by risking her life to tend to wounded Union soldiers on the battlefield during the American Civil War, thus earning the nickname “the Angel of the Battlefield”. Throughout her remarkable life, she offered humanitarian aid across the globe, such as the in the Franco-Prussian War in Europe and the Hamidian massacres in the Ottoman Empire, but her most significant contribution was founding the Red Cross, which is still crucial today in helping those in need during times of crisis. A challenge she faced was that she grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family; her parents fought often, she had a sister with severe mental illness, a brother who had been convicted for bank robbery, and a second brother who committed suicide. She also suffered from depression in 1864 between battles during the war, when she felt “depressed and dissatisfied with herself”, as Barton stated in her diary; maybe she feared feeling worthless when there was nothing she could do. She also seemed to have been losing hope at times, when she wrote, “All the world appears selfish and treacherous. I can get no hold on a good noble sentiment anywhere”. Though Barton had contemplated suicide, the need for her service warded off the “thin black snakes” of sadness. She dealt with it by devoting herself to new projects and the most turbulent conflicts. However, she eventually conquered her mental illness, as she continued to work and sought out ways to manage the symptoms. When she worked as a patent clerk in Washington D.C, she refused to work for less pay than a man for equal work. This shows that, although she never took a salary from the Red Cross, she wanted to be recognized fairly for what she did and was not going to let anyone walk all over her. The story of Clara Barton’s life and her phenomenal achievements are worth remembering and sharing because she is a role model for anyone who wants to make a positive difference. She was not only a successful self-taught nurse but also a caring, empathetic philanthropist. Something we can take away from learning about her is how obstacles don’t stop us; even though she grew up in an unstable household and suffered from mental illness, she overcame those hardships was able to do amazing work for the betterment of the world. I am drawn to her because of her compassion and caring for others. In addition, she was most influential in the medical sphere, which is the field I want to go into, so we share that interest. An example of a quality we have in common is we are both inclined to care for and help others. But I also aspire to emulate the bravery and selflessness she showed by helping on the battlefield. She exemplifies my own goals in the sense that I want to make a positive difference and not only live for myself, but for others as well. An example of a barrier I have in connecting to her is that she is American and I am Canadian, and we have vastly different upbringings. I am looking at her life through a very different lens, so I will have to make some inferences and empathize with her as I tell her story. For the next step in my research, I would like to learn about, in more detail, what her childhood was like and how that shaped her as a an adult, so I plan to read “The Story of My Childhood” written by Barton herself.
Michals, Debra. “Clara Barton.” National Women’s History Museum. National Women’s History Museum, 2015, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/clara-barton 9 October 2018.
Henneberger, M. “Red Cross founder Clara Barton fought ‘thin black snakes’ of depression by springing into action.” Washington Post, 6 April 2012, www.washingtonpost.com. 9 October 2018.
“Clara Barton.” About Clara Barton | Red Cross Founder | American Red Cross, American Red Cross, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history/clara-barton.html, 10 October 2018.
When her mother dies, Kira is left isolated and rejected by the village. Something impressive about her actions is her refusal to give up. The reader can’t help but admire her personality traits of bravery and determination. An internal conflict is her struggle with not being loved or wanted, since nobody wants anything to do with her because of her twisted leg. We see their prejudice and primitive values when she states, “her twisted leg diminished her value as a laborer and even, in the future, as a mate” (6). An external conflict is the cruel village that scorns her, threatening to leave her for the beasts. An inference about what Kira wants is to have someone to shelter and protect her again. She’s still a child and needs to be cared for. One of her fears is being abandoned, when she “[feels] the aloneness, the uncertainty, and a great sadness” (3). In this scene she also says that “fear [is] always a part of life for the people” (3). This isn’t impressive; she sounds helpless, like she is willing to live in fear, as a victim. She makes no attempt to resist the hive mind of the community. On the other hand, this may be realistic for Kira. Fear is beneficial, because as someone with no power in society, she needs to survive. She says fear “propel[s] her now as she [stands] … and consider[s] where to go” (3). A personal connection I have is how she was detached from her community, and when I was really young, I often felt excluded from kids in kindergarten and dance class, who would quickly form groups, leaving me out. If I were in Kira’s situation my actions would be similar, salvaging what was left and trying to rebuild my life. There isn’t much she can do except pick herself up and keep fighting.
In “Dad is Dying” by Stuart McLean, 12-year-old Sam tells a boldfaced lie that throws everyone in his life for a loop, but ultimately ends up “rescu[ing] his mother and father” (139). This is true because, despite all the misunderstanding and confusion Sam’s dishonesty caused, the positive changes that the lie led to outweigh the chaos that it set off in the first place. Clearly, the family was not doing very well at the time. But when Sam tells his class that his father is dying because he is “too old to be crying about a sick dog” (141), everyone in their community hears the news and they are devastated. However, even though they believed that Dave was going to pass away, the kindness they showed towards the family ended up bringing them closer together. This is shown when Morley, who was previously “feeling a loss of connection with everything that mattered to her” (139), is reminded of the kindness of their community when she sees their concern about their sick pet, bringing food, giving their condolences, and even offering funeral services. Meanwhile, Dave had been in the thick of a “full-blown hypochondriacal funk” (139) and was convinced of his supposed deteriorating health. When suddenly “everyone he met had something nice to say” (153), even the ever-condescending Mary Turlington, he knew he “must be looking good” (153) and was thus feeling newly rejuvenated. Even Stephanie, who is not involved very much in the story, is comforted when she receives a card that reads “Thinking of you in these difficult times” in the middle of her exams. For Sam, things get quite awkward, with uncomfortable pats on the back from teachers and a visit to the counsellor. In the end, he learns an important lesson when he realizes he needs to resolve the mess he’s caused at school. Even so, when he sees his family together and happy, it is all worth it. All these points prove that, even though Sam did tell a lie, the positive effects on his family and community far exceed the lie itself.
Roommates are like puzzle pieces; not only do we click with some but not with others, but choosing the right roommate can be endlessly frustrating. Despite this, I believe Dana, with her honest, open-minded personality and our shared interests, would be the best roommate choice for me. This is because she says that, while she does have specific interests, she is also open to enjoying almost anything and likes new experiences. In addition to this, I can tell that she is an honest person due to the way she admits that she’s nervous for camp, which most people would hide. Open-mindedness and honesty are not only qualities of a good roommate, but also a good person and friend. Secondly, though we share common interests, we are different enough to learn a lot from each other. For example, I am mainly interested in writing, dance, and music, and she is mainly interested in music and art. In other words, this is sort of the middle ground; we can relate to one another, but still share new experiences. So, since she has several qualities of a good friend and we have shared interests, Dana would be the best summer roommate choice.