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In their search for identities, John Smith and Marie, who are biologically Indians, are faced with a lot of challenges. They are torn between what appears to be competing and different worlds. One world appears to be belonging to its native’s history, and not that of its own. Smith seemed, as if he was an alien of his own ancestral community. At times, he even had difficulty in communicating with the natives. While there, he found himself in a world which seemed to exist independently from his own one.
Other Journals that Comment on the Novel
Various scholars have written articles which support and talk about the search for identity; they have some similarities with the Indian killer; here are some of them.
D’Arcy McNicle’s ‘The Surrounded’
Here, Archilde is battling with the reality of returning home to the reservations. He finds him lost and belonging to a different culture altogether, through this cultural disjuncture, he feels that his mother’s world exists very independently from his own one (D’Arcy 67). He refers to this as ‘the rejection of Indianness’. Archilde finds it difficult to adapt his mother’s native ways, especially the feasts which appeared very boring to him, but he had to comply anyway. His search for identity makes him accept so many things, hoping that one day everything will be at rest. It is hard for him to embrace the old days and traditions, thereafter, this is evident from his responses and the way he distances himself every time he is asked about his cultural apathy.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
This article presents the tale of Native American, who survives the horrors of being a prisoner to the Japanese at some point in the World War II; he is drawn to his Indian history and traditions, and he has a quest for comfort and his traditions. This resolution becomes a ritual and a curative ceremony which defeats his misery.
Tracks by Louise Erdrich
The book is set at the time, somewhere in North America, when the Indian tribes had some struggles to keep the remains of their lands. This is brought out in a way that portrays the tradition of these people and how they struggle to balance between the change of culture and their traditions. ‘Tracks’, thus, come out as tale full of passion mixed with deep unrest. Over a period of ten years, the ancestral land and reliance between the people ceaselessly erode, this pushes both men and women to the edge of their long endurance, these is further complicated by their humor and pride which prohibits surrender (Louise 128).
Summary of the Novel
The novel ‘Indian killer’ is one of Sherman’s most controversial novels nowadays. It remains one of the electrifying sagas of justice and alienation. In the novel, a serial assassin named Indian killer is portrayed terrorizing Seattle, scalping, hunting and botching white men. Motivated by the quest to seek his peoples’ retribution, his skillful elusiveness ends up paralyzing the city, engulfing it with fear, prompting an uprising racial brutality. John Smith emerges out of the chaos-an Indian born raised by the white parents, he yearns for what is known as his lost tradition (Sherman 217). As this embitterment with his double life increases, he finds himself as the prime suspect, when he falls into this deeper vengeful madness. Tensions mount, as Smith struggles to dispel the rage that overwhelms him, the Indian killer ends up claiming another life. Alexie takes us through an unflinching view at the source and reasons behind the nurturing rage. Here, we see people who are both marginalized and colonized by the society, which neither understands nor values it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Reservation and the Change of Culture
The major advantage of reservation is the fact that it helps preserve the culture, as people of the same origin stay together, and through this, there is continuity and the passing of norms from generation to generation. Reservations also, to some extent, help preserve the ancestral land of the people. Although, the majority of the people were denied what was rightfully theirs, they can as well be proud that they got a portion of it, which can at least support them.
Change of the culture has some advantages too. It helps people to realize what they have been missing by sticking to the old ways, and some cultural practices that do not add value. In the search for identity, Smith realizes some cultural aspects of his community, which are not good; if had he not been brought up by the whites, he would not have noticed this.
Racism harms the groups that are disadvantaged within the population of the whites in the following ways; it has continually divided popular political and social movements, thus, undermining their potential to challenge the existing forms of government and inequality. The ruling elites have, thus, often opted for using race as one of the strategies of ‘divide and rule’ as a way of protecting their class and interests. As evident in the story ‘Tracks’, change of culture negatively affects the community’s ways of life, as the adopted culture comes with what erodes the society of its values, thus, doing more harm than good. It also comes with denial of some rights, as a result, there is a division in the society, as some categories of citizens are treated to be more worthy of respect than others (Treuer 57). It, thus, creates class, which did not exist in the traditional ways of life. This classification of people normally creates racial oppression, thus, dividing the community, and completely erodes them of the unity they experienced earlier on.
In ‘Ceremony’ by Leslie Marmon, slavery and second-class nationality became one of the pivotal aspects of racial oppression (Leslie 98). After the World War II, slaves in the South triggered serious problems for those who had large lands, and relied entirely on slaves for labor, no one was there to work for them, and most productive lands were left idle. The slaves ended up being denied their rights and what was rightfully theirs, for example, when it came to land ownership. This resulted into only few ex-slaves acquiring land.
Another disadvantage of reservation is that most reservations lead to the denial of rights and reduction in productivity, thus, leading to poverty. People who had acquired huge land, refused to surrender them to the rightfully owners, thus, ending up having huge idle land which could have been used for production by some people. This was the sole reason why the Indian killer was so mad with the white people, and ended up butchering them in the quest to acquire what he believed was rightfully his.
The change of culture also leads to loss of tradition. John Smith, who was raised by the whites, ends up acquiring their ways of life and loosing his own tradition. He is an Indian, though knows nothing about them. This quest for his lost tradition lands him into a big mess. His quest makes him aware and brings him to reality of the oppression and discrimination that he earlier on assumed and thought it never existed. He is made understand some vices that he had developed, as a result of the whites up-bringing. Finally, the greatest disadvantage in reservations is the poverty level. There is an immense poverty, as people living in the reservations are highly populated and the land barely fits them (Parker 127). Most families in the reservations earn less than a half of poverty threshold. Employment, income and education in these areas are lower, compared to the national averages.
My Stance in the Novel
From the above advantages and disadvantages, it is evident and plainly easy to concur with the writer of the ‘Indian Killer.’ First of all, searching for identity has never been an easy thing; that is why there are various challenges faced by John Smith and Marie in their quest for identity. They are divided between their usual ways of life and what they are supposed to embrace as their tradition. Just like ‘The Surrounded’, these two extremes seem to them as different worlds; they are, thus, torn in between not knowing whether to stick to what they know or embrace the new change which seems very odd to them.
The struggles faced by Smith and Marie, bother them at heart, because they see and learn how to face the discrimination and the harsh realities that come with it; they come to appreciate the importance of culture to their natives and how difficult is to embrace change. Despite the struggles with oneself, it is evident that, one can not run away from the reality. John Smith, although raised by a white, realizes that he doesn’t belong there; this self-realization marks the onset of his identification with the cultural past, his transformation, and by extension, his regeneration. He is troubled at heart, and finally, he finds his real identity and this pains him, as he now tries to guard the tradition and what he had earlier on despised.