Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians: The Search Engine

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Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians: The Search Engine exemplifies the idea of being detached from one’s community through the use of different characters. This is achieved through the depictions of the chronicles of Corliss, Harlan Atwater, and Corliss’ family. Alexie conveys the way they all either try to be more Indian like, less Indian like, or try to determine how to be themselves in the face of racist (white privileged) America. By doing this, Alexie reveals the idea that culture means different things to different people, thus showing that to be happy means to be comfortable in one’s own skin no matter what society has deemed normal. To begin with, Corliss is quite comfortable with the respectable way she carries herself and her academic…show more content…
Harlan himself uses stereotypes to gauge his knowledge of Indians just like the white people who think Indians are all spiritual and wise. This is quite interesting because it gets at the fact that the way one is raised is what influences their identity and it becomes so that identity can never be changed, which is what Corliss realizes- she is unique within both the American and Indian sub-cultures and she should deal with it. For instance, when Harlan hands out autographed books to the Indian “best friends”, they left them “lying on the dirty cement [and] lying abandoned on the streets”, which was because they saw through his stereotype driven scribbles and saw that he was definitely not an Indian brother (47,48). In essence, the Indian community adjudicate and denounce stereotypes that make them out to be simple-cultured, easy to mimic, and insignificant because it makes it seem like they do not contribute much to society, therefore rendering them ineffective and incompetent. As a result, Harlan gives up trying to become a true Indian, thus making it so that he recognizes that he has to just isolate himself from Indians and just live the way he has always known- separate, but comfortable with his white…show more content…
Thus, their pride suffocates them and their ability to do better, and this affects Corliss in that she feels like she must choose between her culture/heritage and her strengths, future, and aspirations. Specifically, when her uncle sees Corliss holding Gerard Manley Hopkins’ book of poetry he says that “white people were killing Indians in the nineteenth century [he bets] this Hopkins dude was killing Indians, too”, obviously using both his lack of knowledge and prejudice to come to that conclusion (13). This entire situation only made Corliss question “how these men hate poetry so much and respect her intelligence”, thus making her feel distanced, while she also distances herself from her Indian-ness in that she knew the truth and her uncle’s uneducated guess only made her question her status as an Indian due to her superior intelligence, clearly making her feel above being associated with such stupidity (15). The Indian culture somewhat prohibits standing up for one’s beliefs and this is exemplified when Corliss “wanted to say ‘Everything.’ She wanted to scream it. But she knew she’d be punished for her disrespect of her elders” (14). In this situation, Corliss wants to show how learning was very important to her, and wants to defend this belief, yet she knew that it would be

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