“This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” vs. “Attachment to Homeland”

Nicole Esposito
It is very interesting how “Attachment to Homeland” in Tuan relates to the story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” by Sherman Alexie. The story by Alexie is about a man named Victor who needs to leave his Indian reservation to go to Phoenix, Arizona to gather his father and his father’s belongings, whom just passed away. The reservation did not have enough money to lend Victor to even buy a plane ticket, they only were able to give him $100. Victor accepted the small amount of money and figured he would try to find a way to get the rest of his money needed. An old, forgiving friend of his, Thomas, offered to help Victor with his money problem, as long as he could go with Victor. Again, Victor desperately accepted and off they went.
Throughout their trip, we learn of the Indian reservation where both of them grew up, we learn about memories of their childhood, what was important to them then, and what is important to them now, and they remembered both good and bad things about Victor’s father. By taking this trip together, I think they both learned a lot about each other and their surroundings.
Tuan states that “Home is at the center of an astronomically determined spatial system. A vertical axis, linking heaven to the underworld, passes through it. The stars are perceived to move around one’s abode; home is the focal point of a cosmic structure” (Tuan 149). Throughout the story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”, the narrator touches upon all of these elements that Tuan brings up. The reservation is all the two men are familiar with, it is their home where they were born and raised, and at the end of the day, that is where they lie down to rest. They all know each other there as if they are one big family. While Victor was speaking to Thomas for the first time, he was slightly embarrassed because he thought everybody was going to make fun of him for talking to Thomas. “All the other Indians stared, surprised that Victor was even talking to Thomas. Nobody talked to Thomas anymore because he told the same damn stories over and over again.. Victor was embarrassed, but he thought Thomas might be able to help him” (Alexie 475). This just proves that everyone in their reservation knows enough about each other because they are all very close to each other, even if they are not fond with everyone.
The situation that Thomas is in is also linked to “heaven by a vertical axis”, according to Tuan, because one of the story’s main focal points is death. Victor’s father died, and now his son and one of his friends from childhood is reminiscing about good times they had with him. When one dies, it is said that you either go to heaven or hell, which is on Tuan’s “vertical axis”.
The stars are also mentioned in this story. One Fourth of July, when Victor and Thomas were younger, they walked home together in the darkness. There were streetlamps at the time and Thomas brought up in conversation about how they were lucky to have street lamps and how their society has come a long way (technologically) and Victor said “All I need is the stars… And besides, you still think about things too much” (Alexie 476). I think that this statement showed how the boys grew up in the reservation and were there throughout changes that were made within the reservation. They experienced a lot together, and they experienced a lot with their community. This is what makes a hometown or a “homeland” come together as one.

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