34 pages 1 hour read

Sherman Alexie

Reservation Blues

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1995

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Character Analysis

Thomas Builds-the-Fire

Thomas, the novel’s protagonist, is a 32-year-old Spokane Indian. He is kind, compassionate, and forgiving. He is also lonely and somewhat of an outsider in his tribe. Despite describing his need to tell stories as a “disease,” Thomas is a strong believer in the healing and transformative power of songs and stories. Although not overly traditional, Thomas has faith in many of the old Indian ways and customs. In starting a band, he truly believes that he can help his people. He worries about the issues faced by the Indians on the reservation, such as poverty, lack of opportunity, and alcoholism. Thomas’s father is an alcoholic, but Thomas does not drink at all.

In his interactions with the other Indian characters, Thomas greets adversity with compassion. He lets Victor and Junior beat him up without ever fighting back. Thomas’s reluctance to stand up to his bullies comes not from a place of cowardice, but from an understanding of Victor’s and Junior’s own struggles. Thomas is always willing to help someone in need, no matter how that person may have treated him in the past. For example, when Victor’s father died, Thomas accompanied Victor to pick up his father’s ashes and even paid for Victor’s trip.

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