Sunday, February 6, 2011

Evolution by Alexie - Give 'em a Hand

In the heart breaking yet darkly humorous poem “Evolution” by Sherman Alexie, the reader feels the immense betrayal of the Indian people. In the narrative poem Buffalo Bill tricks the Native American population into selling hi all of their things when he opens a pawnshop, but once he has bought everything they have , he closes the pawn shop the opens a Museum of Native American Cultures. This white man has once again taken the Indians for all they are worth and then insists on being honored for his work for their community. These themes are brilliantly depicted through the vocabulary chosen, the structure (enjambment, three line stanzas) and the dark humor of the poem.
Firstly, the word choice of this poem is modern, yet decrepit. They create a feeling of a broken down garage, keeping broken contraptions and rusted metal. Alexie uses the outdated (“liquor store”, “television sets”, and “VCR’s”) along with the industrial (“catalogued”, “storage room”, “venture” and “bucks”) to show the distinction between the outdated and poor Indians alongside the growing economic market. It is also interesting that the author names the people ‘Indians” in the beginning, almost making the reader feel like part of the group, and in the end the Museum is named “Native American”. This ‘politically correct’ term is juxtaposed next to the humanity of the Indians. The most effective language choice comes from ‘Bucks’. Instead of dollars Alexie uses the word bucks, which harkens back to the history of Native Americans. There is a connection between the young buck that once lived, and now giving its life to the white man that is served.
As far as the structure we see five stanzas, with three lines each. Though the stanzas seem separate, the enjambment used demands that the lines run over, increasing the speed of the poem with ever line. There are only three sentences, or three periods, in the entirety. The poem seems balanced, yet it builds in momentum and velocity, ending in a bang.
The final words of ‘Evolution’ are not merely a statement, it is a joke. As you can see in the third and four stanzas the Indians give away everything they have, even their figurative ‘hands’ (taken to mean things they have made by hand, their cultural creations).The horrifying depiction of giving their fingers one by one, until their thumb, and then finally their hearts. Buffo Bill has taken everything, even their vary bodies, and the joke is that when he has finally ‘milked them dry’ he takes one last thing, and ‘charges them five bucks a head to enter’. The dark, even deathly, humor highlights the point, the Indians have walked into another trap, and they don’t have anything else to fight back with now.


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