The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Summary and Analysis of "All I Wanted To Do Was Dance"

Summary

This story is narrated in the third person. Victor is brokenhearted after a white woman he is dating breaks up with him. Extremely drunk, he finds himself dancing with a Lakota woman in a Montana bar. He ends up in a cab and daydreams about the woman. The next morning, he searches for a job in the newspaper. He remembers the white girlfriend talking about a party she attended where people used cocaine. Back in the present, he resolves to go running but instead drinks coffee and watches TV. Victor remembers fancydancing with his family, and drinking too much with his girlfriend. After the break-up, he buys a 24-pack of Coors Light on his payday and drives far away, throwing the full bottles of beer out the window one by one.

100 days after returning to the reservation, Victor goes to buy a bottle of wine. A Cherokee visitor talks to him, and Victor ends up giving the visitor the wine. He walks away without having a drink, and decides that tomorrow he will dance.

Analysis

Like “Amusements”, this story follows Victor as a young adult before he quits drinking. It is a gritty examination of the causes and effects of alcoholism. Although Alexie’s condemnation of alcoholism is one of the collection’s primary themes, he portrays alcoholics sympathetically. He emphasizes that his characters do not become alcoholics out of personal weakness. Rather, drinking is one of the few escapes available from the forces of racism, grinding poverty, and, in Victor’s case, disappointment with one’s familial and romantic relationships. Victor eventually gets over his ex-girlfriend and becomes sober. However, Alexie points out that despite Victor’s triumph, alcoholism will continue to be a major issue on the reservation. Victor’s success is ultimately problematic, because he avoids backsliding only by giving his wine to someone else suffering from the same affliction.

In “All I Wanted To Do Was Dance”, Alexie continues to add texture to his fiction by alluding to religious texts. Victor, he writes, “had been back home on the reservation for one hundred days after being lost in the desert for forty years. But he wasn’t going to save anyone. Maybe not even himself” (90). Here, the author compares Victor to Moses, who was forced to wander in the desert with the Israelites he freed for 40 years. In the Old Testament, this story is an example of a test of faith - God made the Israelites wander for so long because they questioned whether he would ever lead them to the promised land. In the story, Alexie likens Victor’s rowdy youth to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert - he must endure the ravages of heartbreak and alcoholism before he can return to a quieter, sober lifestyle. In a sense, Victor is being punished for not trusting in the virtues of a sober life.

Alexie depicts the redemptive power of dancing for Victor and other characters in The Lone Ranger. It is only by dancing that Victor is able to achieve emotional solace and connect with other people. Although traditional Spokane "fancydancing" seems to have the most power, the characters also seem to find solace in contemporary dance. Dancing plays a similar role in “The Fun House” and “Somebody Kept Saying Powwow”.

Finally, it is worth noting the whiteness of Victor’s ex-girlfriend, who is not given a name. The fact that she does not have a name and is simply referred to by her race is a clever reversal of the tokenism that Native Americans are often subjected to in white media. In “Indian Education”, Alexie criticizes the fact that when Native Americans appear in pop culture at all, they are often portrayed using offensive stereotypes; indeed, the collection’s title is a reference to this practice. In “All I Wanted To Do Was Dance”, Alexie subjects Victor’s ex-girlfriend to the same stereotyping and shallow characterization in an effort to subvert mainstream expectations.