2. Quick rules:
A while is a noun meaning "a short spell." It has been a while since I
met with Tom.
Awhile is an adverb meaning "for a short spell." Use it to modify
verbs. Let's wait awhile. After school, I needed to sleep awhile.
When there is a preposition, use a while. (A noun can be the object
of a preposition, but an adverb can't be.) Let's sit down and talk for a
while. We spoke a while ago.
When in doubt, try replacing awhile with another adverb, such as
"slowly" or "happily." If the substitute adverb sounds fine, then use
awhile. If not, use a while.
Let's wait quietly. (It works.) >> Let's wait awhile.
Let's wait for quietly. (It doesn't work.) >> Let's wait for a while.
3. Chair Poet?
I believe that every English
poet should read the English
classics, master the rules of
grammar before he attempts to
bend or break them, travel
abroad, experience the horrors
of sordid passion, and - if he is
lucky enough - know the love of
an honest woman.
Sherman Alexie “This is What it Means to
say Phoenix, Arizona”
Style and Technique
6. Style and Technique
“This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” is from Alexie's short-story
collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993). It
continues the story of an alienated young Indian man named Victor.
Told mainly through the consciousness of Victor, the tone is bleak, even
cynical at times, with small details carrying great weight. Here again, we
see the technique of interweaving short stories into a novel-length work.
This intricate story telling method allows Victor, through his own memories
and his connection with Thomas, to tell his story.
The story is more psychological than social or political, and references to
the BIA, HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development),
alcohol, poverty, and the reservation emphasize both the catastrophic
history of the Native Americans’ relations with the U.S. government and
their psychological consequences.
7. Discuss POV and how or why it is
important to the plot.
The POV [. . .] is, I believe, 3rd person limited. [. . .] it allows us to
see more than just what Victor sees and thinks but also what he
doesn’t mention to us. This helps us see the friendship of Thomas
and Victor through a more neutral position than if it were solely
from Victor’s eyes.
8. Discuss the relationship of Thomas and Victor.
When they are little kids they are best friends but after Victor beats up
Thomas in their teens it seems to be the end of their friendship. I almost
feel as though Victor is the closest thing Thomas has to family and that it
why he helps him.
The relationship between Victor and Thomas is one of tolerance.
Thomas helps Victor see and understand himself better.
I think the best way to sum up their relationship from Victor’s point of
view is that Thomas is like the person that Victor is glad he has in his life,
but is ashamed that he feels like he cannot admit that in public because
of the way Thomas is (with his stories I mean) [. . .] It is like how you love
your sibling, but sometimes in public they go crazy [. . .]and you wish you
were not related to them.
9. The role of storytelling
[Thomas builds-the-fire] realized his destiny, what in Chinese is called “ming,” his sole
purpose for being embodied. “We are all given one thing by which our lives are
measured, one determination. Mine are the stories which can change or not change
the world. It doesn’t matter which as long as I continue to tell the stories.” By
respecting and accepting who he is, and recognizing the total irrelevance of external
opinion in assessing his worth, he’s able to achieve a clarity of vision reflected in his
Thomas would have been revered in the tribe were he born a century earlier. Thomas
even says in one of his stories “it was too late to be warriors in the old way” (1215),
and in a sense he is explaining why he is now considered crazy.
Stories make phoenixes of the dead, whether fresh flesh corpses or long decayed
memories, they’re reborn every time the story is retold. Forms to rise from the ashes
like the shapely flames of the storyteller’s bonfire.
Victor seeks Thomas after his father dies and he is in dire straights. “Victor felt a
sudden need for tradition” (1215). The storyteller is one of the oldest forms of passing
down cultural stories, traditions, and collective memories. “I have no brothers or
sisters. I have only my stories which came to me before I even had the words to speak.
I learned a thousand stories before I took my first thousand steps. They are all I have.
It’s all I can do” (1220).
10. Discuss this story in terms of postmodernism
I think this text is very postmodern due to the fact that it is breaking
down and reconstructing culture.
Sherman Alexie is making a postmodernist statement about
storytelling in this short piece. Just like other post-modernists stories,
in this one Thomas realizes that not all stories are universal.
One aspect of it is the jumping between the plot of the story and the
tales of Victor and Thomas’ youth. The framing of the story in this
way displays that the story is not about the plot, but about how These
stories, the stories of your youth and culture, and the stories of those
around you are what make up your world.
Another postmodern aspect is the matter-of-fact diction [and] the
narrative. It ends abruptly, and without a good sense of closure,
which is come to be expected from postmodern literature.
11. Discuss this story in terms of minority theory or multiculturalism.
Reservations are stuck in an endless cycle of poverty, alcoholism, and
discrimination. When Victor beat up Thomas because he was drunk, the
main problem wasn’t that Victor was beating up Thomas. The main
problem was that Victor was drunk at age 15, still barely a teenager.
By using this setting and the Native American importance of family, tribes,
and community, Sherman Alexie is able to successfully impose the idea
that family and community is always important.
Sherman Alexie balances two opposing facets of multicultural life while
allowing his main character, Victor, to walk through the middle. Thomas
Builds-the-Fire shows the fight of continuing tradition. By showing various
internal multicultural conflicts Alexie takes the modernism to
12. Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels,
ranging from the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres. He has also
written plays and screenplays.
He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for
Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy
Awards, including Best Picture. He received a National Book Award and National Book
Critics Circle Award for his 1992 novel, All the Pretty Horses.
His previous novel, Blood Meridian, (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of the best
English-language books published between 1923 and 2005 and he placed joint runner-
up in a poll taken in 2006 by the New York Times of the best American fiction published
in the last 25 years.
Literary critic Harold Bloom named him as one of the four major American novelists of
his time, along with Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and Philip Roth. In 2010 the London
Times ranked The Road no.1 on its list of the 100 best fiction and non-fiction books of
the past 10 years. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner.
13. End of Days
Class 40: The Road: The age of terror; the apocalypse; themes
Class 41: The Road: Concepts; Symbols
Class 42: The Road: Postmodernism; Critical Theory; The
American Dream; Introduce Essay #2
Class 43: The quarter in review; Self-Assessment; Discuss
Class 44: Optional Class: Make-up Exam #1 or #2
Class 45: Final
Read The Road: the first half of the novel: page 86 in the
online version (linked under “full text prose). Stop here:
he kissed the boy and crawled into the other bunk under the
clean blankets and gazed one more time at this tiny paradise
trembling in the orange light from the heater and then he fell
What caused the devastation of the land? Provide the clues you
used to come to your conclusion.
Start thinking about essay #2. You may draw from any of the
texts we have read in this second half: from the postmodern