The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Literary Elements


Young Adult

Setting and Context

Early 2000's in Washington State - on and around the Spokane Indian Reservation

Narrator and Point of View

Junior is the narrator. The story is told from his first person point of view as the novel is written in the form of a personal diary.

Tone and Mood

The mood of the novel is light-hearted, as Junior is an awkward but humorously honest fourteen-year-old boy writing in his diary. At its core, this is a coming-of-age novel with a dramatic narrative arc. Because of this, Absolutely True Diary resonates with a universal audience. It is also educational for those who are unfamiliar with Indian culture and the problems currently facing people who live on reservations in the United States.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Junior is the protagonist. Rowdy, Roger, Mr. Dodge, and the Indians on the reservation are all antagonists at some point in the story; the most prominent antagonistic forces are racism and alcohol addiction.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is whether or not Junior and Rowdy will be able to repair their friendship after Junior goes to Reardan. Their relationship is symbolic of Junior's struggle to reconcile his roots and his ambition to build a life outside of the reservation.


The climax of the novel occurs when Junior leads the Reardan team to victory over his former classmates from Wellpinit; this is a turning point for Junior because he realizes that going to Reardan has given him hope for his future, but his old friends do not have that luxury.


1) Junior calls his sister "Mary Runs Away" (27) because she runs away from life and lives in their parents' basement. However, this nickname foreshadows Mary's impulsive decision to marry a man she has just met and run away to Montana with him.

2) Mr. P. tells Junior, "your friend Rowdy, he's given up. That's why he likes to hurt people. He wants them to feel as bad as he does" (42). This accurate analysis of Rowdy's mentality foreshadows the rejection and abuse that Rowdy inflicts on Junior once he chooses to leave Wellpinit for Reardan.

3) After Rowdy shaves off the Andruss brothers' eyebrows as penance for bullying Junior, Junior admits that "revenge... feels pretty good" (22). This foreshadows his decision to play aggressively in Reardan's rematch against Wellpinit so that he can humiliate Rowdy, a moment in which he finally realizes that revenge can be just as hurtful as the action that seemingly justified it.


1) "'Uh, er, um,' I said. Yeah, I was so articulate" (84). Alexie uses understatement to convey Junior's self-awareness that he is nervous while defying his science teacher.


1) "Tonto" (64) - An allusion to the Native American sidekick to the Lone Ranger, a popular character from the American western genre. Tonto started appearing in serialized radio shows in 1933 and his characterization has contributed to the stereotype of Indians as "Noble Savages."

2) "Prince Charming" (81) - An allusion to the popular fairy tale trope of a dashing, handsome, white royal who always rescues damsels in distress. Junior imagines Rowdy telling him that he (Junior) is the antithesis of Prince Charming and therefore will never have a chance with Penelope.


1) "My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud" (31). This description evokes the sense of hopelessness that overwhelms Junior once he discovers that he is expected to study geometry from the same textbook his mother used more than thirty years before. The image of a mushroom cloud is one of complete destruction, as it is commonly associated with massive bombings.

2) "...I could smell his breath. Onions and garlic and hamburger and shame and pain" (42). This imagery invokes Mr. P's sloppiness as well as the weight of his guilt about having purposely squashed Indian culture in his classroom. It is effective in showing how open Mr. P. is being with Junior - he is close enough so Junior can tell what he had for lunch, and he is also revealing the source of his pain.

3) "Those kids weren't just white. They were translucent. I could see the blue veins running through their skin like rivers" (56). This imagery emphasizes how different Junior feels at Reardan because of his brown skin.


1) Junior's dad misses Christmas to go on a drunken binge, but he manages to save a five-dollar bill for Junior in his boot. Junior calls the money "a beautiful and ugly thing" (151) because he knows how badly his dad probably wanted to use the five dollars to get more drunk, yet he resents his father for being drunk and missing the holidays in the first place.

2) Junior claims that many of his Reardan classmates' fathers are "good at hiding in plain sight" (153). This paradox invokes the mental absence of these parents, who may be home every night but do not pay any attention to their children.


1) "We were supposed to kill the Indian to save the child" (35). This use of parallelism underlines Mr. P.'s point that many white Americans have treated Indian culture as somehow threatening to American culture, thus encouraging white reservation teachers to force their Indian students to assimilate.

2) "My cartoons weren't just good for giggles; they were also good for poetry" (95). Here, the use of parallelism emphasizes the importance of Junior's (often humorous) cartoons - they are his way of expressing himself.

3) "They were constantly scraping together enough money to pay for gas, to get me lunch money, to buy me a new pair of jeans and a few new shirts" (119). This repetition emphasizes how hard Junior's parents are working to support their ambitious son.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

1) "I kept glancing over at Wellpinit as they ran their layup drills" (190). This is an example of synecdoche because Alexie uses "Wellpinit" to refer to the Wellpinit High School basketball team.


1) "That old, old, old, decrepit geometry book hit my heart with the force of a nuclear bomb" (31). By personifying the thirty-year-old geometry textbook that Junior is expected to study in his class at Wellpinit, Alexie makes the book a powerful symbol for the lack of educational resources on the reservation.

2) "The grief didn't hit me right away" (201). By personifying Junior's grief after hearing about Mary's death, Alexie gives the loss a physical presence, which reflects the devastating effect that the tragedy has on Junior's life.