“They’re going to kill each other”: Storytelling, Stereotypes, and Pop Culture in Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
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This thesis explores the interplay between postmodernism, storytelling, stereotypes, and popular culture in Sherman Alexie’s collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The thesis employs the connection between dialogic storytelling and stereotypes to reframe how Native Americans experience themselves in the text and how non-Native people can change their perspective on Native Americans. Multiple voices and narrators influence the twenty-two short stories in the collection. These stories, and the characters in them, are narrative wisps that function as a postmodern textual construction which help readers navigate Alexie’s realm. This thesis seeks to answer how humor and the dialogic intersect to address the haunting memories of the past and how Alexie’s characters cross the cultural borders between Native American cultures and White American cultures. I examine how Alexie both accepts and challenges stereotypes and adds popular culture to the dialogic to deconstruct the pre-established notion of Native Americans as drunks and as a self-destructive group of people. Alexie tries to provoke his readers by depicting a hopeless universe, and the result is that the life-threatening condition is being Native American. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven functions as a reminder to his non-Native readers that contemporary Native Americans exist and that they live their lives similar to the non-Native society. Alexie’s satirical depiction of Native Americans and their struggles puts Alexie in the role of a modern-day Trickster that demands social change.