By Sherman Alexie
Response By Gretel Dougherty
Every Little Hurricane by Sherman Alexie uses the metaphor of hurricanes to represent a fight between his uncles and the more overarching issues surrounding the Spokane Indian Reservation. A hurricane is the best way to describe the experiences of native people in the United States. Rain and tears are the same thing, winds represent tension. Alexie writes, “For years, Victor feared that he was going to drown while it was raining, so that even when he thrashed through the lake and opened his mouth to scream, he would taste even more water falling from the sky.” This signifies that Victor is drowning in the sadness suffered by everyone on the reservation. Alexie continues to use small references to weather throughout the story, making it possible to identify and better understand the magnitude of what is going on. However, it seems like Victor, the main character, still has hope that things could turn out better for him.
Living through hardship is all about finding coping mechanisms, and there are passive and active types, as well as healthy and destructive types. Alcoholism and physical fights are both types of coping mechanisms discussed in the story. Alexie compares the fight between his uncles to a hurricane, but he compares the alcoholism on the reservation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, making a very important distinction between natural and human made devastation. Victor also tries praying near the end of the story, which could be a sign of either hope or desperation, or a little bit of both. Desperation proves to be a recurring theme, and of course one of the toughest situations someone can be in. It is represented especially clearly by the scene where Victor’s father keeps opening and closing his wallet in hopes that some money will appear. The main hurricane is poverty, with other disasters spinning off of it such as alcoholism, and depression because of the fact that it is next to impossible to move out of the absolute lowest possible economic class.
Alcohol is a liquid, along with rain, tears and sweat, all of which are mentioned in the story. Liquids are a huge part of that weather metaphor. However, reading the story is like sitting inside a house and listening to thunder outside, without a cause for fear because the struggles can’t get close enough to hurt you. Some people ignore them. But, the native people are outside in the hurricane. Broken people getting tossed around by the winds of unspeakable losses and subsequent sickness, poverty, alcoholism and betrayal. All these cause a overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, which leads to fights like the one in the story between Adolph and Arnold. The only thing to do is to fight it out to make it feel like something is happening, or worth it.
Forcing a group into extreme poverty can cause people to form incredibly strong bonds with each other. There is one line in the story that was heart wrenchingly true. “(Victor) could see his uncles slugging each other with such force that they had to be in love.” When there is so much love between people, losses and fights hurt even more. Is that better than the mediocre life of higher education, college debt, and weak family connections that is experienced by many disconnected working class families in the USA today? The reality of reservation life is so different from anywhere else that it can barely even be compared. But, maybe an emotional rollercoaster with extreme highs and lows is better than a constant middle ground no matter what. Different environments cultivate different qualities in a person, for better or for worse, and maybe the love between Victor’s family is what empowers him to believe that he might still have a chance at success.