Sherman Alexie’s short story “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” demonstrates the confusing conflict between the reality of the Indians and the reality of the white people. White people only see the surface of things, which is shown again and again through the story. But by trying to fit himself into the white world, Jackson says, “Piece by piece, I disappeared. I’ve been disappearing ever since” (Alexie). He goes crazy over time as he must give up the extra sight he has as a part of being Indian and understanding the deeper, more spiritual realities the Indians can see.
Because he can’t completely reject his Indianness and he can’t fit into the white culture, he ends up crazy and homeless when he sees his grandmother’s ceremonial outfit in the display window of a pawn shop. He works throughout the story to get together the money he needs to buy his grandmother’s outfit back from the pawn shop, but is never able to hold onto it – spending it instead on drinking and gambling. When he arrives at the pawn shop at the appointed time, he doesn’t have enough money, but the pawn shop owner asks him about what he earned for it. Jackson tells him the truth and the owner gives Jackson the outfit because, even though he doesn’t have the money now, he did earn it and the spiritual act of earning it was enough. The story ends with Jackson dancing in the street wearing his grandmother’s ceremonial outfit, claiming he has become his grandmother.
Did Jackson really become his grandmother at the end?
Jackson did not really become his grandmother at the end in the eyes of the white people watching him, but he allowed her spirit to come alive through him and therefore actually did become his grandmother in the spiritual reality that the Indians can see.
- Alexie, Sherman. “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem.” The New Yorker. (April 21, 2003). Web. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/04/21/what-you-pawn-i-will-redeem