The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Summary and Analysis of "The Fun House"

Summary

Victor’s aunt Nezzy makes beaded dresses as a hobby. They are beautiful, but too heavy to wear, and she likes to say that the woman who can wear one of her dresses will save the tribe. One night, she is watching TV with her husband and son when her son farts. The noise startles a mouse, which runs up Victor’s aunt’s pant leg. Her husband and son laugh and refuse to help her, which makes her very angry. 30 years ago, Nezzy and her husband were injured in a car accident after her husband drove drunk. After the mouse incident, Nezzy swims naked in the river for hours, despite her husband and son’s pleas for her to come home. She remembers being tricked into accepting a hysterectomy after her son was born. That night she returns to the house, exhausted from swimming. She puts on one of the beaded dresses and dances.

Analysis

Although many of the stories in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven focus on male characters, “The Fun House” examines what it is like to be a woman on the reservation. Women are accorded a certain degree of respect in the tribe; they occupy leadership positions, and everyone seems to accept Nezzy’s prophecy that a woman will be the one to "save the tribe". This respect for women hearkens back to “The Only Traffic Signal...”, which features a female sports hero.

However, the story also shows that women are subject to unique indignities, including not being taken seriously by the men and, most horrifyingly, forced sterilization. In earlier centuries, Europeans attempted to “exterminate” Native Americans by intentionally spreading disease, exploiting them economically, and at times through overt warfare (Rutecki). In the late 20th century, the American government continued this practice by giving unnecessary hysterectomies to Native American women, either by force or by tricking them into accepting the surgery. Between 1973 and 1976, 3,406 Native American women were sterilized without their consent (NLM).

Perhaps in reference to Nezzy’s sterilization, the story ends with her swimming in the river. The image of her swimming naked evokes the womb and childbirth. Alexie reinforces this association by showing how despite the exertion of swimming for hours, Nezzy actually gains strength after she comes out of the water. For her, swimming seems to be a renewing experience comparable to rebirth. At the end of the story, Nezzy puts on the beaded dress that is to be worn by the woman who would save the tribe. Though there is no clear idea of what saving the tribe would entail - or whether or not Nezzy is the woman of her own prophecy - the ending is quite lyrical, and engages readers to consider what will happen to Nezzy and what her circumstances mean for the rest of her tribe.