Following reading "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" and watching its film adaptation, we will write short essay responses to the piece(s). Please choose ONE of the following prompts and answer it, following the requirements carefully.
(By the way -- if you haven't finished reading the short story, scroll down to the entry for August 28 for the link.)
Requirements (Part of your grade is successful/correct formatting!)
- typed in size 12 Times New Roman
- one inch margin all the way around
- MLA header (Your Name, Teacher's Name, Class Period, Date) in top left corner
- title (centered, no extra formatting)
- NO LESS THAN 1.5 pages long
- NO MORE THAN 2 pages long
- clearly organized, multiple-paragraph essay response with appropriate language for academic writing
- saved as "Lastname Alexie Response" and copied into my Inbox (ask for help if needed) or emailed to me AS AN ATTACHMENT
- due by Thursday, September 6
Prompts (Choose ONE)
A. Sherman Alexie once said, "It’s all based on the basic theme, for me, that storytellers are essentially liars. At one point in the movie, Suzy asks Thomas, “Do you want lies or do you want the truth?,” and he says, “I want both.” I think that line is what reveals most about Thomas’s character and the nature of his storytelling and the nature, in my opinion, of storytelling in general, which is that fiction blurs and nobody knows what the truth is. And within the movie itself, nobody knows what the truth is.” Do you agree with his understanding of fiction? What do you see as the role of Thomas’ stories in the movie? Why is storytelling so important to him? Where do you think the truth actually lies between Thomas's and Victor's versions of events? (NOTE: You may not necessarily respond to every sub-question in this prompt -- focus on what seems important to you in order to fit into the two-page limit.)
B. Alexie is one of a small number of well-known Native American authors; Smoke Signals was the first feature film written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans to receive a major distribution deal; in addition, all the actors who portrayed Indians are also Native Americans. Our images of ourselves and of other people come not only from our experiences of ourselves and of other people, but also from movies, television, books, and other media. How have Native Americans typically been represented in American popular culture, especially movies (other than Smoke Signals)? How does Smoke Signals conform to or break with these images? What does being an Indian mean to Victor and Thomas? (Recall especially their conversation on the bus when Victor ridicules Thomas for watching Dances with Wolves so many times). Where do you think that Victor has gotten his ideas about how an Indian should act? (NOTE: You may not necessarily respond to every sub-question in this prompt -- focus on what seems important to you in order to fit into the two-page limit.)
C. Sherman Alexie wrote the screenplay for Smoke Signals about five years after writing "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona." While he based the screenplay on his short story, there are some obvious changes between the two stories. Identify between1-3 MAJOR differences and explain why Alexie made these revisions to his original story. What impact do the changes have? How is the story altered/improved/unimproved? You may or may not include your judgment as to which storyline you prefer.
D. As the story -- in both written and film form -- develops, how does the relationship between Victor and Thomas change? What causes this change? Why do you think their relationship was the way it was in the beginning? The philosopher Aristotle said that there are three types of friendship, based on the motive for forming them: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships of the good. (Read more about what each of these mean in the "Types of Philia" section here.) How does the relationship between Victor and Thomas relate to Aristotle's notions of friendship (i.e., what kind(s) of friendship do they have)?
E. What is the role of fathers in this story? How does Victor's perception of his father differ from Thomas's perception? How do you -- and the characters -- answer the questions presented at the end of Smoke Signals about forgiveness?