ShermanAlexie narrates the story, WhatYou Pawn, I Will Redeem,involving a homeless Spokane Indian who is in a bid to recover hisgrandmother’s regalia from a pawnshop. The name of the character isJackson, who is an alcoholic and spends most of his time boozing andhaving fun alongside his friends, Junior and Rose. The authordescribes the reasons behind Jackson’s desire to redeem thegrandmother’s regalia, who had died of cancer several years ago.Despite his poverty and hopelessness, Jackson is ready to win backthe regalia and pride himself with the feat. Alexie’s storynavigates around the lives of the Indians in America and theirinteractions with fellow Indians and other races. The author alsohighlights the loneliness of Indians living in the States andexamines the theme of “noble savage” (Alexie, 2003). The story ofJackson is crafted in a manner that does not get the author derailedfrom the noble cause of examining the lives of Indians andIndian-Americans in the U.S. Therefore, Jackson’s actions andmotivations toward the redemption of the regalia do not fit togetherin his journey since while at times he shows hope and persistence, healso reflects careless generosity and irresponsible alcoholism thatcan compromise the mission.
WhenJackson notices the regalia hanging at the pawnshop’s window, heimmediately recalls that it once belonged to his grandmother. Itwould perhaps be the only remaining sign of his grandmother’s wayof life, especially because she used to dance in the powwow. Jacksonsays that he had heard about her dancing prowess though he had notpersonally seen him (Alexie, 2003). Rose also explains that theregalia is Jackson’s “family’s sad story” (Alexie, 2003).Unfortunately, the regalia cannot be returned to them for free sincethe owner of the shop had bought it from someone else.
Theregalia’s importance shapes the flow of the story and the actionsthat Jackson takes to redeem it. In fact, it reflects the family’smemory that reminds Jackson of her grandmother and the fatefulness ofher departure from the world. At some point in the story, Jacksonponders about the origin of her death. In this case, he wonderswhether there is a likelihood of cancer having been triggered by theloss of her regalia. Maybe after her heart was broken by the loss,the damage spread to her breasts (Alexie, 2003). While this kind ofthinking sounds crazy, Jackson still has hope that bringing theregalia back could help bring his grandmother back to life.Evidently, it is unclear whether he means physically bringing herback to life or restoring the memories of her and the life she livedwith the family. Either way, this thinking lays a concrete foundationconcerning the importance of redeeming the regalia, and, thus, playsan instrumental role in restoring hope and courage in Jackson`spursuit of the item.
Unfortunately,Jackson does not have the needed money to get the regalia back to thefamily. However, as seen in the story, he believes in magic andmiracles, and, therefore, everything is possible to him. The regaliais important to him to the extent that after he discovers it, everyother action that he undertakes is geared towards ensuring that it isback to the family. Jackson is involved in a series of activities inan attempt to accumulate the nine hundred and ninety-nine dollarsthat the pawnshop owner needed to return the regalia to them (Alexia,2003).
TheAccomplishment of the Mission
Evidently,despite all the misfortunes and mistakes he makes, Jackson is notready to stop at anything before securing the regalia back. The firststep he makes is visiting the newspaper publishing house, RealChange. On top of that, he believes that he might earn some dollarsby getting newspapers to sell them for a profit. However, the BigBoss does not believe that Jackson’s target can be achieved withinthe day, based on the history of newspaper selling held by theprevious sellers (Alexie, 2003). Since the boss believes in thehonesty and commitment that Jackson has, he gives him fiftynewspapers for free to assist in the accomplishment of the objective.Indeed, it is one of the lucks that present themselves before thenarrator. Unfortunate, the narrator is a man of mistakes and ends upwasting all that money in a MacDonald’s.
Anotherstep that the narrator takes on the journey towards the regaliaredemption is visiting the Korean grocery store to try his luck inlottery tickets. In fact, if he had won the maximum amount in thefirst two tickets, he would have had enough money to buy the regaliaback. Unfortunately, the two tickets only yielded a third chance, inwhich he won a hundred dollars. At this point, his alcoholismoverrides his decisions again when he takes all the money he had intoBig Heart’s Club and wastes it with the fellow Indians, whom hedoesn’t even know (Alexie, 2003). Therefore, it is a sign of anincurable height of irresponsibility or one that threatens to ruinhis plans.
Seemingly,luck is on his side as he is discovered by a generous white cop afterhaving slept on railroad tracks after passing out. The officer offerssome dollars to help him his plans after listening to his story. Mostimportantly, it is yet another proof that most of the eventssurrounding Jackson`s life at this moment are miraculous. Perhaps,his generosity is being paid back by the angels of abundance, ormaybe its sheer coincidence. But Jackson spends most of the moneyagain when he meets the hungry Aleuts (Alexie, 2003). Notwithstandingthat he might get another lucky chance, he does not seem to takeabout that. Additionally, his generosity is too overwhelming to beput aside in the face of the main cause of seeking the redemption ofthe regalia. Jackson’s narration seems like a “happily-ever-after”story coupled with so many unexpected turns of events that it almostbecomes fictitious. The ultimate redemption of the regalia withoutspending any single coin makes Jackson look like the last standinghero in a story surrounded by gusto and relish.
Roleof Others in the Mission
Severalother characters in Alexie’s story help reveal the importance ofJackson’s mission and how much committed he is toward itsachievement. The Aleuts, for example, help in the singing of songsdedicated to the grandmothers and help spark hope in Jackson`smission toward redeeming her grandmother`s regalia. They sang almostall songs they knew that could help relieve any feelings ofhopelessness and restore optimism (Alexie, 2003). The shop owneroffers some bucks to the narrator to help him look for more money forthe purchase of the regalia, a sign that he helps establish the levelof commitment that Jackson has. The waitress recognizes Jackson’sgenerosity when brought the boys for breakfast. Impliedly, this, in away, increases his blessings in the journey that he has before him.
Furthermore,the police officer plays one of the most instrumental roles in thestory. In that case, he is one that has a direct impact of theultimate redemption of the regalia. On that note, he takes care ofJackson from the railroads and drives him to the detox, and leaveshim with some dollars (Alexie, 2003). The dollars were laterpresented to the shopkeeper for the regalia, but the owner refused totake them and offered the item for free. Interaction with the otherIndians at the bar also shows that despite his alcoholism andirresponsibility, Jackson is dedicated toward the achievement of hismission.
Jackson’ssuccess in redeeming the regalia is both hard-earned and miraculous.Though some of the actions he undertook were geared toward theachievement of the goal, he also made serious mistakes that couldhave compromised the success of his mission. Consequently, hisalcoholism and irresponsible generosity made him waste almost all themoney that he had acquired for the purchase of the item. However, hisluck later enabled him to redeem the regalia despite having littlemoney.
Proposalfor the Paper
Ichose Prompt 1, “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem.” It is aboutanalyzing the actions and events surrounding Jackson in his missionof redeeming his grandmother’s regalia.
Theprompt caught my interest since I like analyzing characters fromliterary works. It is the only prompt that allows an extensiveexamination of the story to identify all actions, events, and traitssurrounding a character. The excerpt also plays a role in allowingthe analysis of the importance of each specific action in theultimate achievement of the mission. For example, the prompt enablesme to analyze the actions and events that surrounded Jackson in hisjourney towards the repurchase of his grandmother’s regalia. I alsolike the prompt since it allows me to analyze the motivations andrationales that drove the character to embrace the efforts he had inthe narrative.
Iwill write a text discussing Jackson’s motivations, challenges,achievements, and actions in the entire journey that finally securedhim the lost regalia. Focus will be placed on the fact that whilesome of his actions were pivotal in the achievement of his goals,others placed significant impediments on his pathway and couldcompromise the success of the mission. For example, I will discusshis irresponsibility and alcoholism that threatened to leave withnothing to present to the pawnshop owner. I will also examine hisunyielding spirit of trying many options- a spirit finally borefruits and touched the heart of the shop owner and led him to offerthe regalia to Jackson for free.
Jackson’sactions and motivations toward the redemption of the regalia do notfit together in his journey since while at times he shows hope andpersistence, he also reflects careless generosity and irresponsiblealcoholism that could compromise the mission.
a)Jackson’s alcoholism and irresponsible generosity threatens theachievement of his goals.
b)His persistence, confidence, and luck play an important role in theachievement of his objective.
c)Other characters like the Aleuts, the waitress, and the policeofficer play important roles in revealing Jackson’s commitmenttowards the achievement of his objective.
Ihave questions regarding the magic surrounding Jackson’s storybecause it seems unrealistic. Most of his actions do not reflectcommitment. He tends to rely on luck more than hard work. Therefore,it is difficult to analyze his character on the basis of hard work.Furthermore, there are concerns about the repetition of luck inalmost every event. For example, he luckily wins a lottery, getsmoney from a police officer, and wins back the regalia free ofcharge. The concerns seek to establish whether Jackson`s story can beaccepted as a reality or merely a fictitious narrative.
Alexie,S. (2003). What you pawn I will redeem. NewYorker-New Yorker Magazine Incorporated-,168-177.