Flight Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15


Chapter 13

Zits finds himself alone in a small airplane, flying “below a ceiling of clouds and above the ocean” (107). At peace with himself, Zits hopes he is in Heaven, and thinks that all the world is connected.

As he recalls his two occasions of flying in the past, Zits thinks of his mother, of a photograph his father once took of her sitting inside a jet. He grows sad thinking of his mother and her cancer, and blames his father for breaking her heart and thereby causing her death. He hopes he is now flying to meet with her again.

However, the memories of his new body begin to flash through Zits's mind. He realizes he is a pilot named Jimmy, and he recalls the face of Abbad, a brown-skinned Ethiopian man with glasses. Abbad is Jimmy's best friend, and Jimmy taught him to fly even though he feared the man might be a terrorist because of his Muslim faith. However, Abbad jokingly denied the accusations when Jimmy made them. The memory is so strong that he sees Abbad's image (or perhaps his ghost) in the seat next to him.

Abbad’s image fades, and Zits is left alone with Jimmy's heartbreak. It is more difficult for Zits to manipulate Jimmy’s actions than it was with earlier bodies; he compares it to watching a movie.

Jimmy soon lands the plane and then lovingly washes it. Another memory surfaces, in which Abbad tells Jimmy to go home to his wife, after which they laugh together. In the present, a woman named Helga approaches Jimmy and invites him to dine with her in the office, where she has prepared a picnic for them. As Jimmy sits down to eat, Helga begins to dance seductively, and Zits grows excited by the prospect of potential sex. Suddenly, another woman’s voice sounds from the doorway. Zits looks up to see Linda, Jimmy’s wife, who sobs and runs away.

Chapter 14

Zits is shocked and disgusted to be in the body of an adulterer. He considers it another type of justice, to embody a man like his father was. However, he also feels Jimmy's anguish as he leaves Helga, telling her that he loves Linda. Helga cries as he leaves, leading Zits to wonder why people hurt each other. He hopes never to fall in love, since it opens one to a betrayal of trust. He then thinks of the people in the bank, whom he betrayed when they trusted him to be kind.

When Jimmy climbs into his pickup truck, he begins to cry as he thinks of Linda and Abbad. Yet again, Abbad's image appears next to him, this time accusing Americans of arrogance. Jimmy counters that Abbad has lived in the U.S. for fifteen years, but Abbad insists his real home has been destroyed.

Abbad's image fades as Jimmy drives into a small town and towards his house. There, Linda is throwing his belongings onto the front lawn. He watches her collapse onto the porch and weep. Jimmy approches her, and she confronts him about the affair. When he admits he has been with her for a year but never loved her, she pulls a pistol from her coat pocket and points it at him.

Chapter 15

Jimmy does not flinch away from the gun. He wants to die. Linda pulls the trigger, but nothing happens - she had removed the bullets, and only wanted to scare him. Zits can feel Jimmy’s overwhelming sadness as she tells him to leave the house within a week, accuses him of unceasing sadness, and then leaves him alone.

After a half-hearted attempt to clean up the yard, Jimmy enters the house. There, he has another memory, in which Abbad screams furiously in his own language on a home video. The memory shifts to footage of an airplane falling from the sky, and crashing into downtown Chicago. A photograph of Abbad and his family follows, along with a news report about the crash. It turns out that Abbad and his wife hijacked and deliberately crashed a plane, causing many casualties. Jimmy remembers being interviewed by reporters after the incident, all of whom wanted to know how he felt about having taught Abbad to fly.

Hating Abbad for his betrayal, Jimmy drives back to the airport. Thinking of how everyone important in his life is gone, he climbs into his airplane and takes off. He remembers Abbad's excitement during the Muslim's first flight, and their drunken celebration afterwards. He had considered Abbad his best friend.

Jimmy flies onward; Zits cannot control him as he flies the plane directly towards the ocean. As they approach their deaths, Zits thinks of all the people he has ever loved or hated, and all those he has either betrayed or been betrayed by. He thinks, “We’re all the same people. And we are all falling” (130).

Zits closes his eyes and prays. Jimmy stays silent as the plane descends.


In many ways, these chapters feel disconnected from the rest of the novel. The plot feels forced, as if the author were trying too hard to explicitly draw connections. Firstly, there is no Native American theme in this section. Secondly, Jimmy does not have as direct a connection to the fundamental questions Zits asked about himself in the early chapters. But most of all, this section feels different because Zits as protagonist is insignificant here, since he has absolutely no agency over Jimmy. While it is possible to consider interpretations for this lack of agency - perhaps the stress of time travel has affected him, perhaps his emotional surrender as Gus drained him, or perhaps Zits has resigned himself to being a spectator - it is more likely that Alexie wished to broaden the scope of his analysis of cruelty and violence. And while the section works differently than the other transformations do, it certainly resonates thematically.

The post 09/11 setting is extremely apparent here. Racial tensions are high as Jimmy deals with the betrayal of someone whom he considered not only a friend, but also an American. Jimmy initially worried Abbas was a terrorist simply because of his heritage, a racist assumption. Later, he showed a significant lack of understanding of his friend's life, which Abbas indicates when he reminds the pilot how his beloved home was destroyed. Of course, the final reversal is that Abbas actually was a terrorist. Overall, the section explores the level of paranoia and fear that runs through the American subconscious in the contemporary era. In this way, the section makes sense as a counterpoint to the American paranoia following Columbine and other school shootings, broadening the types of hatred and violence that the novel explores.

This section also refuses to make any definitive statement on racism. In the same way that Zits both hates and enjoys both poor and rich Indians, and wants to be white despite his contempt for them, it is difficult to know whether Jimmy was actually racist or simply cautious. Had Jimmy refused to teach Abbas, we would undoubtedly have considered him racist, but he is similarly lambasted for choosing to teach Abbas. The difficulty of understanding people through race is explored in this section, which also links it to the rest of the novel.

Loneliness is also a recurring theme. Zits has struggled with sadness and loneliness his entire life, which led him towards a violent, angry act at the bank. Immediately, he feels and relates to Jimmy's own loneliness, but because he can view it somewhat from the outside, he realizes the cost of such feelings. Jimmy's loneliness has led him to hurt someone (Linda) in a way that Zits despises: adultery. Similarly, Abbas's sadness over his own homeland leads him to an extreme act of violence. Finally, Jimmy chooses to end his life over those feelings. Zits is forced to consider his own feelings from different perspectives, which furthers his journey. He continues to consider that his behavior does not have to be controlled by his feelings.

Finally, by embodying an adulterer, Zits comes to realize that anyone is capable of cruelty. Everyone in this section has betrayed someone else: Abbas betrays Jimmy, and Jimmy betrays Linda and Helga. Therefore, the lesson of this section is crucial towards the novel's arc. In effect, everyone commits the sin that Zits despises most, since he blames it for causing his many difficulties. Because he embodies and therefore empathizes with a betrayer, Zits again faces his own betrayal at the bank. This all connects most of all to his father, who committed the first betrayal. Ultimately, he accepts that everyone is connected, and capable of falling. Like his own father, he found a way to justify a deadly betrayal, and everyone is capable of that. Acknowledging his own weakness is the first step towards the forgiveness that ultimately brings Zits moral salvation.