Custom «Reading Reponses on the Book "War Dance" by Sherman Alexie» Essay Paper Sample

Reading Reponses on the Book

The book “War Dances” by Sherman Alexie is the first edition publication of Grove Press. The book is a great collection of poems and fictional stories that take critical insight into controversial situations affecting conflicted people in the society. “War Dances” is strikingly interesting with some stories being funny and others very sad, astonishingly, they are all engaging to the reader. The author captures my attention by blending comic situations with sad ones and does this without having to struggle like some other authors will do by using many words. Some of the stories are drawn from his Native American Indian heritage, some of them have race-blind characters, and some are white. He lengthens his stories into stereotypes, he discusses for example; in the first story “Breaking and Entering,” where he finds a young man doing a stereotypical thing, characters with alcoholic parents or singing elders. He also puts his characters in differing situations, such as “The Senator’s Son,” where he tells a story of a young homophobe.

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The book shows Alexie’s proficiency with words, he is not exceedingly wordy, but rather moves the story by narrating it over. His poems are a great testimony of his fascinating ability with words. I feel that he uses a rhythmical language which is borrowed from his poetry skills and this makes his work very unique.

Alexie does not fully point out his argument, but rather leaves it to the reader to finalize and make conclusion on the topics of discussion. He does not give straight forward answers, but allows the reader to ponder over them. 

Response on the book

When I first saw the book I thought it was about some war and celebrations after the war, the title is elusive to the reader. In my opinion, the book read more like a transcript of an oral performance and this makes the work very unique. In several instances, Alexie gets to be too vulgar but in a funny way that kept me reading on. Despite being messy, he uses this to bring up rather heavy and sensitive topics with a light touch that makes a reader laugh when he/she least expects to. In a great capacity, I agree with his way of expressing topics that would be otherwise not interesting to listen or talk about. These topics include cancer, loneliness bigotry among others. In the title short story, a young man looks as his father nears death in a local hospital. His father was feeling cold, and when he complained, the young man goes out in search of a warmer blanket. On his way he spots another Native man and starts a conversation (Alexie 56):

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“I mean,” said the young man, “You should see my dad right now. He’s pretending to go into this, like, fucking trance and is dancing around my sister’s bed, and he says he’s trying to, you know, see into her womb, to see who the baby is, to see its true nature so he can give it a name – a protective name- before it’s born.”[…] “I hear you catch nostalgia from fucking old high school girlfriends,” said the man.

This quote shows the nature in which Alexie’s writing appears more of a transcript of a theater play than a story. It also show how he boldly picks on words that are vulgar, but in a way manages to give the reader a reason to keep reading. I feel that he does this due to his ability to perfectly balance very differing themes without jeopardizing the reliability or rather tranquility of his work. He points out in his title story that, “men and pornography are like plants and sunshine. To me, porn is photosynthesis,” (Alexie 42). This statement is put together with other very serious materials, like death, isolation, hate and others. He does this intertwine with a lot of simplicity and does not force humor into it. In a manner only known to him, he manages to fix together all this pieces of contradicting themes without falling out of topic.

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I feel that the author is very bold in the way he narrates from the perception of some very unpopular characters. In “Breaking and Entering”, he discloses the results of a brutal quarrel between a Spokane man and a black young man, and ends with an illustration of racial power in America. He also writes about a son of a politician who takes charge of a violent attack on a group of homosexuals in the story, “The Senator’s Son”. Still in the same story, he comments of the world without making it appear boring, the little character discovers that his best friend is gay, this dialogue leaves him thinking endlessly on the effects ones statements have to the rest of their lives. Several years later, he meets his friend again, who points out that he still has plans of voting for the Republican senator, saying: “Anybody who thinks that sex somehow relates to the national debt or terrorism or poverty or crime or moral values or any kind of politics is just an idiot” (Alexie 32). It is certain in this case that Alexie can comfortably address this issue of sexuality with surety of not being victimized by having it in a comical way.

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I feel that these stories could either poorly done and despicable if they could have been written with lesser proficiency. However, Alexie presents his materials in the story in a manner that does not leave him in the middle of a controversy, but rather leaves the reader with the decision of whether what is in question is good or bad. He uses a style that makes his work unpredictable, thought provoking and yet, very entertaining. Additionally, he brings up characters that are shown to be looking for meaning in their lives, and in the process, makes the reader contemplate the meaning of their own.

The titled section brings in a deceiving note of regular –man finger posting. With concerns that the impaired hearing is a signal to the reoccurrence of young age hydrocephalus, the narrator disrupts himself shortly with a section heading, “Hydrocephalus, “this is then followed by a paragraph that starts by, “Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “hydrocephalus’ as…”. I am concerned as to why the author does not proceed without the interruption of naming a reference, which in the end he does not use to fully give the meaning he intended to. In my opinion, he needs not to support his statements in any case in the story and I think it is one of his ways of making readers glued to his work.  The narrator also brings out his Native American legacy in his stories; an example is brought in when he talks about himself and when he talks about his father.

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The narrator goes to see a doctor after having been troubled with his ear for some time, and he reminisces that the last time he visited a “health-care facility” was when he was keeping his dying father company. That was a time he went out looking for warmer blanket for his father who by then had his foot and toes amputated. At this time, the narrator was entitled to a deliberately superior level of health care than his father. The narrator goes on to say: “A few hours ago, my father still had both of his feet. They were black with rot and disease, but they were still, technically speaking, feet and toes” (Alexie). This statement shows that the narrator takes on a different line of physicality, and sees his father to be less human than him.

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In another instance, the narrator gets sarcastic when a white doctor tells him that his brain is beautiful. He said he wished to call his father and tell him that a white man thought his brain was beautiful, but recalls that his father was dead. He told the rest of his family about it, but later laments by saying:” none of them laughed as hard about my beautiful brain as I knew my father - the drunken bastard - would have”. Despite him showing that he wished to talk to his father, he does not forget his bad habits even long after he is dead.


The “War Dance” is more than a captivating collection of fiction stories call – and – responses sequences and poems. It is humorous and bold in the way it addresses issues .The author manages to carefully intertwine anger and happiness, love and hate, all in one story. He uses his comical appeal to address societies sensitive and hard issues with a touch that otherwise can be very controversial. His prowess in poetry is carefully used in his stories making them sound more of a transcript of a play than a story.

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Alexie uses vulgar language at some instances but in a way careful enough not to jeopardize his work. He ensures that he blends this with other serious issues and thus keeping the reader engaged. I agree with him in totality with his way of expressing sensitive topics and realities in the world; otherwise, they would appear preachy or maybe raise unnecessary criticism. He also puts the reader into a self assessment condition, with the reader left pondering the solution to some unanswered statements in the stories. In conclusion, the impact of the book remains with a reader, long after reading it. 

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