The practice of cards in the story shows how whites looked alecie and valued native Americans and women in the early 20th century. One of six brothers and sisters, he grew up on a reservation of 1, people, where most of his family still live. And of course I love the points of view, and the complexity and the absence of charicature and all the things I really hate in a lot of writing about rather than by, generally speaking Indians He really is one of a kind. It was interesting that she used such a common occurrence as a drive in movie to look back on the terrible past of the horrid treatment of Native Americans. I can only think of the Cold War, when referencing Intercontinental Missiles, but more recent events come to mind as well, such as North Korea. She is a modern day writer who relates Westward expansion and waynee effects to the issues and struggles that Native Americans faced.

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Behind bureaucratic machines and behind the everyday structures of language, even ceremony, prayer, or ritual in cultures, there is the element of desire, which is always masked by the primacy of the signifier and by metaphorical and rhetorical tropes. Hence, Zizek claims that communities are held together by "symbolic identification" and collective enjoyment: "The element which holds together a given community cannot be reduced to the point of symbolic identification: the bond linking together its members always implies a shared relationship toward a Thing, toward Enjoyment incarnated" Furthermore, irony towards social practices always acknowledges the power of that which it is trying to subvert; in other words, a reversal of the power relationship of society versus the individual always already assumes that society has the dominant hand over the individual.

In fact, she humorously claims to even spoil "the collective enjoyment" of Indian ideology and culture at the powwow, and in doing so, she becomes a legend in her community capable of "ruining ten thousand years of tribal traditions" Alexie By ironically pointing out that she is not an expert on Native traditions while the white anthropologist assumes she is, Etta reduces the distance between European and Native cultures through irony. Not only does Etta cross cultural boundaries that are supposed to separate white and Native American identities from intermixing, but also she even goes beyond subverting stereotypical notions of the Indian elder as a tribal grandmother by recounting a story of herself copulating with John Wayne.

In this sense, Alexie is enabling his audience to see beyond the stereotypical confines of ideology about Indians and whites; the act of intercourse between a famous white male and an Indian woman from the Spokane Indian reservation becomes a transgression of boundaries.

Nevertheless, the very transgression of boundaries Etta makes by having intercourse with a European celebrity simultaneously acknowledges the racist belief of both European and Native American ethnic groups in the impossibility of a sexual relationship between a European celebrity and an unknown Native American woman.

Ironically, transgression always reaffirms that which is being transgressed. The enjoyment of transgressing boundaries provides a particular form of pleasure for Etta in retelling the tale of how she brought John Wayne to his knees before his death. John Wayne loved his wife and children, but he could not forget that "lovely Spokane Indian woman who was all alone and lost in the Navajo desert" In a sense, she represents the woman who is inaccessible to him- an exotic woman who exists beyond the laws and responsibilities of the world that John Wayne is familiar with.

His desire for her is therefore a desire for a woman existing outside of the complex of castration, the desire for a M Other whose desire is not marked by the phenomenon of the paternal metaphor and by castration. What drives their romantic attraction for one another is precisely their inaccessibility and the incommensurability of their cultures.

As soon as they become understandable to one another, as soon as they cross the boundaries of just wild and unregulated romance, they will have entered into a different territory in which secret romance will be an impossibility. Because John Wayne did not want to give up his obligations towards family and children, he certainly had to leave Etta eventually.

Etta describes herself as feeling: "bad, bad, bad. That John Wayne, he was a good father and a good husband, too. In other words, he was retaining his honor and dignity as a father, but on the other hand, he was also seeking a satisfaction that he could not find in his own community, whose enjoyment is "structured by means of fantasies" Zizek In a way, the enjoyment the anthropologist feels when interviewing the Native and interrogating the Native is precisely the same type of perverse enjoyment that John Wayne feels in having intercourse with the Other.

Both the anthropologist and John Wayne are unwilling to enter more deeply into the foreign communities they are interacting with. Somebody said nothing and somebody said amen, amen, amen. Etta is praying in a circle at the end of the story, and the white anthropologist is praying for the ghost of John Wayne.

Although the anthropologist is always visiting or researching some aspect of Indianness, he or she is always on the outside of the community studied. Typically speaking, the Native is always repelling the outsider; the Native stereotypes the white man as oppressor or as Other just as much as the white anthropologist stereotypes the indigenous individual.

In fact, she shows how some assumptions in anthropology can become reductive or even overly general. For instance, Etta is always already an expert on Indian culture from the point of view of the anthropologist interrogating her about her life and culture, but from her own point of view, she is not even regarded as an expert in her community on Native traditions and culture.

Is that okay with you? However, at the end of the story, he is mystified about his interview with Etta, and he has learned a bit of indigenous wisdom: Sitting alone in his car outside of the retirement home, Spencer ejected the cassette tape from his recorder. Was the story true or false?

Was that the question Spencer needed to ask? There was a definite division between authentic data and inauthentic data in the discipline of anthropology, and his professional experience depended on that distinction which is more a product of Western culture than of Indian storytelling. By the end of the story, the anthropologist has undergone a catharsis, and the tale of John Wayne has instructed him about the reality of the fictions that inhabit our own lives.

To which fiction would he be responsible- the fictitious set of rules that govern the community of anthropologists who write about and interview Natives or to the highly personal debt he had to Etta for revealing to him such an intimate story about her love life with John Wayne? What could he gain by retelling that story, especially since none of the community of anthropologists would believe in such a seemingly far-fetched tale?

Because the anthropologist and the Indian are both members of respectively different "imaginary" communities, both of them appear to one another as potential antagonists. To add to the ambiguity present in the story, in the middle of the story, it is John Wayne who insists that no one knows him- not Etta, who is supposedly the invisible Native woman whose culture remains understood under the hegemonic gaze of European ideology.

He is chasing after her, after telling her that she might be pregnant. She is trying to get rid of him, but he is falling in love with her — perhaps he is falling in love with his desire for her as inaccessible. I love you. His tears fell to the sand and flooded the desert. His tears are perhaps the result of his realization that his desire for a pure love existing outside of the confines of institutional and societal expectations will always be a perversion of societal norms.

He cannot possess the romance and exoticism that exists outside of the structure of the family within the structure of the family and of his role as husband. It is his fascination with desire as transgressive that constitutes the nature of his love for Etta.

Yet, transgressive desire is at heart a simultaneous source of fascination and despair, like the relationship between anthropologist and the Native subject. Transgression always reaffirms the presence of the communities and laws that are transgressed.

Desire is therefore always an experience of loss, and his experience confirms that desire itself is alienated in an endless chain of substitution and of signification. Etta not only had intercourse with John Wayne, but also she lost her virginity to him. In her mind, she felt very perplexed as she imagined how many different women John Wayne had slept with : "It was John Wayne, so he must have made love to a thousand different women in his life.

Other movie stars! All those perfect women. Etta felt small and terrified in the presence of John Wayne. Etta knows that she will always remain on the outside of the inner circle of individuals who are significant for John Wayne, just as she knows that the anthropologist to whom she is telling the story will eventually leave her and return to his own community. It was one remark that actually led Etta to become infatuated with Wayne.

How can we realistically project love, hope, and faith if we are not loving, hopeful, and faithful ourselves? Without a desire to be authentic, life is only a masquerade. Without genuine expression of inner feelings, actors are hollow shells. By connecting his own existence and feelings to the expression of feelings on the stage, John Wayne is pointing towards the need for authenticity in life. Yet, there is a stark contradiction between his affair with Etta and his desire for authenticity, between his ideal image of himself and the reality in which he lives.

For instance, his declaration of love for Etta at the end of his life is a confession of his self-deception and his guilt for having led a contradictory and ambiguous life.

How could he find satisfaction in his life when what he actually sought was forever unattainable, e. The entire story of John Wayne and Etta revolves around the logic of symbolic identification and of enjoyment that Zizek describes in "The Loop of Enjoyment" in Tarrying With the Negative. They are fascinated with each other as an Other, and at the same time, they feel threatened by their very fascination for each other, as though they were violating their own tribal-national-ethnic identity Zizek : What is therefore at stake in ethnic tensions is always the possession of the national Thing.

We always impute to the "other" an excessive enjoyment: he wants to steal our enjoyment by ruining our way of life and-or he has access to some secret, perverse enjoyment.

In short, what really bothers us about the "other" is the peculiar way he organizes his enjoyment, precisely the surplus, the excess that pertains to this way: the smell of their food, their noisy songs and dances, their strange manners, their attitude to work. At the end of "Dear John Wayne," the sense that the Other, the foreigner, is somehow assimilated into a logic of familiarity does not occur.

There is no resolution to the conflict that is inherent to the structure of social practices and beliefs which are so entirely different. Both John Wayne and Etta inevitably miscommunicate because of their inability to abandon their own cultural constructions of identity and of desire. Furthermore, at the end of the story, the narrator seems to recognize the futility of communication between two cultures whose notions of language and community are so foreign.

Alexie, Sherman. The Toughest Indian in the World. New York: Grove Press, Zizek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative. New York: Duke University Press,



Their best moments come when they surprise the people around them with the modesty of their desires. Violence, or at least the threat of violence, becomes a sad but necessary vehicle for achieving their everyday dreams. The prolific author, who recently was named by The New Yorker as "one of the best American fiction writers under 40," is also a poet, novelist and screenwriter. Several also are confronting their bisexuality and homosexuality. These challenges are certainly believable, but at times the themes tend to eclipse the characters. The story, set 52 years in the future, is presented in question-and-answer format that only emphasizes the limits of the anthropologist, who is a stuffy academic "the Owens Lecturer in Applied Indigenous Studies at Harvard University ".


Dear John Wayne

Nikobei Alexie also relates it to the bible because he is trying to assert that the Indian culture has been around for atleast as long alexiee the Christian culture. In his writing, the native American characters are not particularly stoic or noble or tragic, as they alxie often been portrayed in 20th-century American literature. Even in my least favorite story The Sin Eaters too much of that coldly sad stuff for me certain phrases leapt out and shook me for no tangible reason. Voice of the new tribes In a way, the enjoyment the anthropologist feels when interviewing the Native and interrogating the Native is precisely the same type of perverse enjoyment that John Wayne feels in having intercourse with the Other. The book received many laudatory reviews.



This story fits along with the themes in, The Toughest Indian in the World, that the American motifs of strong and successful individuals do not always have it together. This story reveals that American icons may not always be who they seem to be, there are unjustified obsessions with American icons, and the conflict between white people and Indians. This short story allows one to see that our image of American icons and heroes can become clouded from predetermined personas created in the limelight. Many viewed John Wayne as the American cowboy who starred in many movies.

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