Sherman Alexie, "What You Pawn I Will Redeem"

A homeless drunk goes on a mission to scrape together a thousand bucks and buy his grandmother’s headdress from a pawn shop.

(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005)

A sweet and sour allegory-type thing about a guy who can’t help himself. His situation would be grim (rather than nearly bearable) if there weren’t smily happy people of different classes and races to help him out once in a while. In this sense, this story is a fantasy, because it seems like everybody’s looking out for each other, which, you know, if only, and this Indian’s only real adversaries seem to be himself and another Indian or two.
I liked the way the action is propelled by wandering. The narrator is a smart guy whose methods are suspect and shoddy. So he’s got this one sincere, sudden goal, and he can’t even hold on to what little money he does stumble across during the day. It’s heartbreaking but totally sympathetic. And up to and including the end, you know you’re being messed with by the author, that this reality — gritty and rough though it was — was actually a bit sugarcoated for the telling.

Today was Live8. So. Very. Tired.

2 thoughts on “Sherman Alexie, "What You Pawn I Will Redeem"

  1. Anonymous

    You might want to mention some of the deeper symbolism that is presented in this short story. Maybe talk about what the powwow means to him.Or you could talk about the people he comes across disappear or die yet he isn’t affected because it’s apart of his daily life.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>