War Dances by Sherman Alexie

Posted: October 17th, 2013





Response: War Dances by Sherman Alexie

The author presents the audience with a chance of evaluating the past as he remembers it. This enables the audience to recall life in the pasts and acts of self-preservation and social preservation of culture, morals and ethics in the society. war dances as the title illustrates is used to refer to the ancient practice of the native Americans or Indians whose culture included dancing in performing rituals and going to war(Alexie, 51). In essence, morality has decayed as the author reflects and contrast morality in society in the modern world and in earlier times.

In essence, the author puts questions forth to the audience in his quest to find meaning of life with respect to the changes, which the life has undergone. Hew views all people as equal and question the necessity of differences and diversity yet people speak the same language, work in identical offices and listen to the same music. In addition, he seems to lay emphasis to the fact that change is inevitable in the society as people progress and adopt new ways of doing things.

The author incorporates social issues, which are part of the modern society to illustrate how values and morals have changed in the face of modernism. I think the book was very strong and authoritative in informing the audience of the slow but gradual evolution of their culture and morals. The various stories each have a unique theme which is applicable in the society and more so in an individual’s life.

This is one of the plays, which I found interesting because of its unique display by author as he tried to inform the audience of tribulations in society especially within the Indian community. His insights into the lives of laborers, artists, fathers and husbands and sons as well

In the context of both father and son, he harbors deep resentment and disappointment in his father because of his drinking problem. He views the presence of father as tasked with guiding and showing the younger people and more so his offspring how to behave in society. In addition to teachings it is vital for a father to provide his children with knowledge in relation to the

Disappointments are part of life is what the author seems to emphasize because even after he is disappointed by his father he still longs for his father’s presence which has been left with avoid after he passes on.

In addition, the theme of disappointments is also evidenced by a writer who is caring for his father who is on the deathbed about to die from ‘a natural Indian death’, which is used to mean diabetes and alcohol (Alexie, 52). From this, we learn that numerous people of the Indian community died form such disease, which can be attributed to living in the reserves, and seclusion and segregation form the rest of the populace. Disease seems to have consumed a sizeable part of the Indian community as well as the alcohol problems. This also in turn leads us into a conclusion that the presence of the modernism has infiltrated culture and played a significant role in the alteration of people’s lives and their culture and more so their way of life.

The incorporation of the various poems and stories within the novel enables to keep the audience or reader attentive to the book as he uses his unique literary means to put forth ideas and beliefs to the reader. The theology of the reptiles can be described as both hilarious and a show of literary prowess by the author. In addition, the same poem enables the reader to understand the roots of the Indian community due their ability to deal with snakes. As he illustrates ‘for my brother, who, bemused and odd, /had somehow become one snake’s god’ (Alexie, 43). This shows his brother’s ability to handle the snake effectively despite snakes being regarded as dangerous. He is a show of courage because in similar situations any one would have just moved away hastily. Moreover he shows creativity and sarcasm when his brother says, “My brother grabbed it by the head/and said, “It just needs lightning bolts.” (Alexie, 43) Lightning bolts in this sentence can be used to describe the presence of the electric current in the snake

In addition in the Indian community, it was told of strong medicine men and women who possessed great power by interceding with the spirits to heal people and predict the people. During such occasions, there were occurrences such as lightning and thunder. Hence, the use of lightning in such a contest is used to attribute supernatural powers to his brother thus enabling the reader or audience the chance of understanding the Indian culture. As he illustrates the act of throwing, the snake onto the electric fence made the snake alive against by means, which are understandable. The snake spirals and comes to life immediately and aims at defending itself when as illustrated by “But we were shocked when that damn snake /Spiraled off the wire and splayed,/Alive, on the grass, made a fist/Of itself, then, gorgeous and pissed,/Uncurled, stood on end, and swayed”. Hence the reader is led into believing that his brother brought the snake back to life as illustrated by his statements “For my brother, who, bemused and odd, Had somehow become one snake’s god” (Alexie, 43)

The poem could also be interpreted to mean of the precious moments the author shared with his brother when they were young. It reminds the reader of the youthful indulgences that one had when they were once young playing in the field with siblings and friends. Such times have gone by, friends have moved on with their individual lives. Hence, he seems to emphasize on the value of family ties. Moreover, how seriously we should all take them because they are valuable even as mere memories.

Another story, which I found as both educative and captivating, was the Breaking and Entering. The story entails of narrations from an editor as he works form home because he is a freelance editor of movies. The story begins when George Wilson is at home editing a movie when an unidentified black male teenager whose intentions were not clear intrudes, but according to Wilson, he was on a looting spree. Wilson manages to confront the young man and eventually kills him with a baseball bat, an act that he considers unintentional. The death of the young man known by the name Elder Briggs arouses public condemnation with specific reference form the black community who are majority of the inhabitants of his neighborhood. The editor is at pains because of being vilified for his unintended murder of a black man in a racial prejudicial society.

This brings forth the presence of racial prejudice against people of color in the society. The author uses this platform to bring forth the pain and humiliation that the Indian people suffered at the hands of the white people. In addition, Althea automatically states that he son had been killed by a white man when she states, “He’s just another black boy killed by a white man. And none of these white men care” (Alexie, 49). This is an indication of the prejudices against people who are white by the black people on claims of victimization due to their races. Race is dominant in that even after the editor looks for another job he still associates the black people with certain behavior in the neighborhood. It seems people are accustomed to burglaries, which are carried out by the black people in the society leading to an automatic perception that black people are automatically responsible for the cases of theft and burglary in neighborhoods.

Morality is also another theme that the author puts forward for the audience to contemplate. This brings forth questions as to why Wilson had opted to defend himself against a young man who did not wield any weapon. In addition his ability to produce movies which use women as sexual objects is a show of his lack of sexual morals; This evidenced by the sexual scene whereby a young woman consented to play the scene while exposing her whole body whereas the young man did not have his sexual organs displayed. The editor feels guilty but does not reconsider his acts but only views her as a victim of circumstances.

I think Wilson was justified in defending himself because the intruder had found him in his own house. In addition, the act of calling the police to report the incident is a clear indication of his moral attachment to his actions, which even though were unintentional. As he comes from a shop within his neighborhood, he meets young men and applies his morals when thoughts come into his mind if the young men would try to harm him he would be forced to knock them down with his car.

The author is hilarious when he states through the editor, Wilson, “and I’d never been the kind of man to defend his home, his property, his shit. In fact, I’d often laughed at the news footage of silly men armed with garden hoses as they tried to defend their homes from wildfires. I always figured those men would die, go to hell, and spend the rest of eternity having squirt-gun fights with demons” (Alexie, 56). I found these statements as among the best-phrased statements in the book because it enables the reader to question individual meaning of life.

The author arrives at conclusions that life has no deep meaning because “Life is infinitesimal and incremental and inconsequential” (Alexie, 69). The aim of such statements is that those who are innocent always suffer and those who are at guilt are always portrayed as heroes and great people in the society. However I found the inability of the black men with Mr. Wilson in the shop to identify him as one who had killed ‘their own’ as intriguing despite the numerous times he had been in the media for the death of Elder Briggs.

In conclusion I think that social prejudices such as racial discrimination are part of the society are to remain with us for quite some time. Because they have been in existence for quite a long time since the arrival of black people and since the Native Americans, Indians were put in reserves as a means of degrading them and attaining their land. Thus, this draws the conclusion that life in essence is just life-unfair, unjust, brutal, unkind and insensitive-to all irrespective of their color or social status.
















Work cited

 Alexie, Sherman. War Dances. New York: Grove Press, 2009. Print
























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