Conflict in This is What it Means to say Phoenix, Arizona
Length: 484 words (1.4 double-spaced pages)
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Walking down the hall, you notice him. Everyone avoids him and ignores the fact that he exists. You know who he is but your are hesitant in approaching him because you know of the consequences. He’s not part of the crowd and to acknowledge him will mean turmoil for you. It’s starts out with teasing and joking and slowly develops into bulling, but you can avoid that if you just turn around. In the story, “This is What it Means to say Phoenix, Arizona,” Sherman Alexie explores life by including generally recognized conflicts. Although typical, the conflicts that Victor encounters occur in more than one aspect of life at once. Some are resolvable, but true to life, some are not. The most apparent conflict in the story is the relationship between Thomas Builds the Fire and Victor. Through the death of Victor’s father, they have come together.
As the story begins, the narrator, Victor not only “lost his job at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he also found out that his father had died of a heart attack in Phoenix, Arizona” (181). Having little money to make the trip to Phoenix, Victor decides to ask to Tribal council for assistance. However, the tribal refuses to provide the full amount of his request because they did not “have enough to bring [his] father all the way back from Phoenix” (181). In desperation, Victor turns to Thomas Builds-the-Fire, an old childhood friend, for help. At first, Victor refuses help from Thomas because of his strange and unpopular reputation. Thomas is known as the reservation’s storyteller who shared stories and continued telling stories even after people stopped listening. However, as he becomes weary, he finally is able to negotiate a plan with Thomas. The plan includes Thomas traveling with Victor to and from Phoenix.
During the trip, Victor reflects on his past experiences with Thomas. At fifteen, they “had long since stopped being friends [and] got into a fistfight” (183). As adults, though they would often see each other on the reservation, however they would rarely interact. As an opportunity arises, when they arrived to his father’s trailer in Arizona, Victor finally apologizes to Thomas. He adds, “I never told you I was sorry for beating you up that time” (185) and accepts him for who he is.
In attempt to relinquish any grudges, Victor agrees to hear just one more story, as their trips comes to a close.
With inheritance money in mind, two childhood friends traveled to Phoenix for a pick-up truck, a few hundred dollars, two boxes of ashes, but most importantly an understanding of one another. In “This is What it Means to say Phoenix, Arizona,” Alexie, using conflicts of everyday life, adds an inside glimpse of life on an Indian reservation as he presents a parallel between the two characters in the story.