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Oscar E.

Cruz Carranza

English 150

Dr. Alisa Klinger

Final Exam – Essay 2 Revisal

08 December 2014

A Fire Always Turns into Ashes

The film Smoke Signals, directed by Chris Eyre and written and co-produced by

Sherman Alexie, is based on parts of his best-selling book The Lone Ranger and Tonto

Fistfight in Heaven. Thomas Builds-the-Fire and Victor Joseph portray Alexie’s

“schizophrenic multiple personality of himself that he developed within the movie” (West

and West 2). Thomas and Victor have known each other since they were very young

because they grew up nearby in the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation. In the film, Alexie

uses storytelling, flashbacks, and fire symbolism to emphasize the themes of renewal

and forgiveness.

In the film, Alexie uses storytelling to preserve the oral tradition because it is one

of the best ways to describe a past occurrence or predict a future event, and how it is

useful if it entertains the people listening the story. Thomas is the representation of

Alexie’s “storytelling geek” (West and West) within himself. Thomas usually

it helped them to obtain what Thomas and Victor needed. which as Arnold got arrested afterward. and Victor told them it was not true. and even lies sometimes. [they] barter” (Smoke Signals). This shows how important the oral tradition is to Native Americans. Suzy Song also tells Thomas and Victor a few stories. However Thomas is not the only one in the movie who tells stories. Thomas’s stories usually lead into a flashback scene in the movie or sometimes a flash forward. it is often used to barter for something else. they still got a ride from Velma and Lucy. Because the story was entertaining. For instance. like how Arnold and she met or the story of the basketball game between Arnold and Victor and the Jesuits. while also helping to preserve memories and sometimes even predict the future. Even though it was a lie. Some examples of this are seen in the story he tells a few times about Arnold taking him to Denny’s or even the story at the end of the movie when he tells his grandmother what was going to happen when Victor took the ashes of his father and scattered them into the river. For instance. . Thomas once traded a story for a car ride with Velma and Lucy because “[they] are Indians. Thomas closes his eyes and starts telling them that Arnold Joseph was protesting when someone took a picture of him that made it to the cover of Time magazine. when storytelling to make his stories more impressive and keep the attention of those listening. CRUZ CARRANZA 2 exaggerates.

when stories are being told. it is clear that Victor’s personality is a consequence of him suffering as a result of his father’s attitude when drinking. and his anger continued to grow because of his resentment of how all these events affected him. and helps us understand why the characters have certain personalities in the present. and the viewers can infer that he got his careful personality from his grandmother. For instance. expressing the demons the young men are trying to confront and overcome as they heal from the loss of their father figure. He was scared when his father left him. Flashbacks that are used throughout the movie are a very important part of the storyline because they go back in time to specific moments of the characters’ lives that have marked and changed them. CRUZ CARRANZA 3 Alexie uses flashbacks in Smoke Signals to establish how the past figures into his characters’ present lives. Whereas this gives a visual idea of what happened. Flashbacks are very commonly used throughout the film. when the story of Victor’s childhood and when Arnold left them are told. There is also a scene where Suzy tells Victor through a flashback what had really happened and who caused the big 4 th of July fire. As for Thomas the first scene of the movie is the flashback in which his parents died and his grandmother raised him. . scenes of the past are played. this was crucial for Victor so he could begin to understand why his father left.

Thomas was the only survivor of the flames that consumed the house where he lived and his parents died. and there are some children who are pillars of ash that fall apart if you touch them. his ash stage of life started when he wanted to redeem himself. He says: “There are some children who are not really children at all. Though Thomas has a careful and sensitive personality. Victor’s flame is growing inside of him. CRUZ CARRANZA 4 Alexie uses fire imagery as a symbol of renewal. showing that after the flame dies it turns into ashes meaning a new life for his characters. they are just pillars of flame that burn everything they touch. and after that moment his attitude changed. Me and Victor we were children born of flame and ash” (Smoke Signals). leaving behind his family. there is strong imagery in Thomas’s memory of the fire that killed his parents. Victor always seems to have an anger issue that builds up and symbolizes that he is the kid born of fire. As for Arnold Joseph. Imagery is present very much throughout the movie. Victor cut his hair. he was not strong enough and died. he then cut his hair and moved to Phoenix. Victor and Thomas have very different personalities. Arizona. Even though he tried to be reborn from the ashes like a phoenix. and gives him a hostile and irritating personality because he suffered his father’s abandonment at a young age. After Victor went into his father’s trailer. for the Native American culture. Arnold started torturing himself with alcohol after being the cause of the big 4 th of July fire. Victor . Arnold’s ashes were given to Victor. he found the picture of his family in Arnold’s wallet. and by extension.

DVD. . Adam Beach and Evan Adams. Sherman Alexie’s main idea in the film is to preserve the oral tradition in Native American culture. and a new beginning for Victor. CRUZ CARRANZA 5 did not have that pessimistic temper anymore. and uses imagery of fire to symbolize renewal. He finally managed to understand why Arnold left. Victor scattering his father’s ashes into the river is symbolic of forgiveness. Dir. He accomplishes this by emphasizing that the storytelling in Smoke Signals helps preserve memories. 1998. uses flashbacks to help viewers comprehend what happened in the past of the characters. shows the value that an entertaining story has in the native American culture. Chris Eyre. Perf. Victor finally forgives his father for everything that he did and understands that he did not mean to leave. Miramax Films. As Thomas and Victor discover new things throughout this journey that Alexie presents. and his inner flame began to extinguish itself to become ashes. Word Count: 1025 Works Cited Smoke Signals.

“Sending Cinematic Smoke Signals: An Interview with Sherman Alexie. . Dennis and Joan M. Print. 1998): 28 (5 pages). West. n4 (fall. CRUZ CARRANZA 6 West. “ Cineaste v23.