This is what it means to say Phoenix Arizona

huskyshiveringInternet and Web Development

Dec 11, 2013 (3 years and 6 months ago)


Blake Steele



Paper, 2


Victor and Thomas are two characters that have a bit of a stranded past that seems to
linger into their present relationship together.

The two don’t seem to get along very well at all
during the first

part of their journey but as they progress towards Phoenix Arizona storytelling;
the thing that at first seemed to tear them apart was able to bring them together.

The element of
storytelling evolves and these changes enable the characters to move from t
he memories and pain
from their past to accept and move forward with what the future may bring.

The story
This is what it means to say Phoenix Arizona

begins with both Victor and
Thomas encountering life issues.

Victor is a broken down alcohol
ic who has just lost his long
lost father and Thomas is an outcast in the community because “Nobody talked to Thomas
anymore because he had the same damn stories” (Alexie, 270).

Because of this common
community belief the reader is lead to believe that Th
omas’s stories are more of a curse that is
keeping Thomas from making friends and it even makes his onetime best friend, Victor not want
to take him on the trip even though he needs Thomas’s money. Despite all these knocks against
storytelling at the begin
ning of the novel, the stories begin to gain meaning and as the story
progresses so does the effect on the characters and the readers perception on storytelling.

The first time the stories begin to gain meaning is shortly after Victor denies Th
money. At first it is revealed that one of the reasons the two are on bad terms together is because
of a fight that happened in their teenage years.

The two had already stopped hanging out
together but one day when Victor was drunk he “beat Thomas
up for no reason at all, while the
other Indian boys just let it happen.” (Alexie, 271) After the fight it is revealed that this was one
of the only times in Thomas’s life that he “closed his eyes, but no stories came to him”.

The fact
that Thomas was abl
e to forget what happened in the story of the fight and move past a point
when he could not use his memories to comfort him shows that the power of storytelling has
allowed Thomas to simply move on and even offer his money to the person he was beaten up by
So eventually Victor comes back for the money and the two embark on the journey together.

As the two progress through their journey to Phoenix, Victor becomes curious to
Thomas’s experiences with his father and asks “What do you remember?” (A
lexie, 273) which
naturally makes Thomas come back with a story.

Thomas tells a story about having breakfast
with Victors Dad and at the end Thomas says “I was mad because I thought my vision had lied to
me but they hadn’t your Dad was my vision” (Alexie,

273). This gets Victor to think deeply
about his past and as described in the book “He searched his minds for the memories of his
father, found the good ones, found a few bad ones, added it all up, and smiled” (Alexie, 273).
This appears to be the start o
f Victor letting go of what has happened with his Dad and Thomas
in the past.

As Victor finally gets to the end of his journey and makes his way back to the reservation
he and Thomas start to look towards their future.

Thomas finally explains
to Victor that his
stories “Are all I have, all I can do” (Alexie, 275) which Victor seems to begin to

despite the fact that “Thomas would remain the crazy storyteller who talked to dogs
and cars, who listened to the wind and pine trees.”(Alex
ie, 276) while also being aware that “he
couldn’t really be friends with Thomas even after all that happened”(Alexie, 276).

Despite the
boundaries that seem to separate them Thomas asks for just one request from Victor in return for
his money and time and

that is to “Listen to one of my stories sometime”(Alexie, 276).

agrees and as a gift to Thomas he gives half the ashes of his father to Thomas that they agree will
be tossed into Spokane Falls and “will rise like a salmon, leap over the bridge, ov
er me, and find
his way home”(Alexie, 276).Thomas gives Victor one last word of advice before they leave
when he simply says “Nothing stops cousin”(Alexie, 276) leaving the reader pondering what that
means as the story wraps up . The two then part ways lea
ving behind their past as they look
towards the future and whatever it may bring.

Paper 1

In the movie
Smoke Signals

and the short story by Sherman Alexie, “What it Means to Say
Phoenix, Arizona” the story outlines are generally the same, yet each seem t
o display different
morals and have different meanings. During the short story, the main idea seems to be that the
relationship between Thomas and Victor changes and they grow to accept each other. The movie
seems to lean more towards Victors’ relationship

and feelings towards his father.

In the movie, the moral of the story is based on Victor growing and eventually learning
to forgive his father, Arnold, whereas in the book, the moral is about Thomas and Victor
becoming closer. The outline of
the movie shows more prominently the resentment that Victor
has towards his father from when he was a child. When Victor was young, it showed that his
father was a drunk, and that he was mean. There were scenes where his father had fits of rage
from alcoho
l consumption, some of which included physical violence towards Victor and his
mother. In the movie there was a scene where Victor even said to Thomas, “Did you know that
my father beat my mother? Did you know my father beat me too?” This is clear evidence

Arnold was not a good father, and could possibly result in him leaving. In the short story, the
only real recognition that shows his father might leave is when Thomas told Victor a story when
they were seven years old. “Your father’s heart is weak. H
e is afraid of his own family. He is
afraid of you… Sometimes he feels like he wants to buy a motorcycle and ride away” (Alexie
269). The story does not explain what leads up to his father leaving, whereas the movie
specifically shows how his father was a
dangerous alcoholic.

One of the biggest details that helped Victor see how his father did love him, was when
he met Suzy Song. She explained and talked to him about how he should go into his fathers’
trailer, where he discovered the photograph
of his family. She also told him his father had quit
drinking and how much he missed home. In the short story there was no such character as Suzy
Song. I believe this is because she played an important role in Victor dealing with his father’s
death, and in

the short story they are not focusing on this. Also, the no real emotional
presentation as to how Victor felt about his father. It only says in the beginning of the story that
he “…found out that his father had died of a heart attack in Phoenix, Arizona”
(268). The only
part that hints that Victor was sad about his father’s death was when he says next, “…there was
still a genetic pain which was as real and immediate as a broken bone” (269). Then it moves on
to talk about how he was going to get his father’
s ashes and things from his trailer. It does not
continue to say anything about Victor being sad or really mourning over his father’s death.
However, in the movie Victor was angry at his father, and having Suzy song talk him into going
into the trailer cau
sed him to even cut his hair in mourning just as his father did. In my opinion,
this was the point where Victor really made peace with Arnold.

Throughout the short story, there are many “stories” that Thomas tells, and almost all of
them are ir
relevant to Victor’s father. There were many more stories in the movie that were
surrounded around or about Victor’s father. In the movie Thomas was constantly talking about
Victor’s father. He would say things like, “Victor’s dad was the best basketball p
layer on the
rez!” and many stories that Victor didn’t even know, or thought were very exaggerated or false.
The passage from the book only had a few stories that Thomas told about Victor’s father. All of
the others were all stories about the two boys or o
ther random things, like the story of the “two
Indian boys that wanted to be warriors” (270). There was also the story that talks about how “We
are all given one thing by which our lives are measure, one determination” (275). If Thomas had
told more storie
s about Victor’s father in the book’s version, my opinion may be different. In the
end, the number of stories about Arnold in the movie far outweighs all other stories, in the book
they do not.

Overall, Victor’s father played a very important r
ole in the moral of the movie and in the
short story, the moral is almost completely about how Victor and Thomas make peace with each
other. This evidence proves that in the movie
Smoke Signals

and the short story “What it Means
to Say Phoenix, Arizona” ha
ve two completely different morals.


English 126

When a tragedy happens to anyone, people become closer to be able to comfort and support
each other during that time. In the movie ‘Smoke Signals’ this story is about how one tragedy
changes two
young Native Americans friends, Thomas and Victor, whose friendship has been on
the rocks since they were children. As the story goes on, there are flash backs to when Thomas
and Victor were kids and then brings us back to the present day to see how their
friendship has
developed over the years. Their friendship becomes symbolic in the movie because of the death
of Victors father and them going on a road trip to retrieve his ashes.

In the movie, Thomas is shown as a story teller and tells point
less stories over and over to
annoy Victor. He tries to help Victor once he finds out about his dad dying in Arizona. He offers
to help pay the way to get his dads ashes on one condition, Victor lets Thomas tag along. At first
Victor hesitated to let Thoma
s come because he has never liked Thomas or his stories. But after
being convinced by his mom, he agrees to let Thomas come along on this trip. As the trip begins,
Victor isn’t too excited about Thomas coming but is thankful to have money to get to Arizona
Victor treats Thomas during this like he does every other time Thomas has been around, like a
pest. The movie takes us back to a time when Victor and Thomas were just young boys. Victors’
father had just left him and Victor was hurting and angry. Thomas
came walking over to see
Victor, already knowing about his dad leaving. Thomas starts talking to Victor about his dad and
that’s when Victor starts a fist fight with Thomas. Ever since that fight, Thomas and Victor
haven’t been the best of friends. When Th
omas offered to pay for the trip to get Victors’ dad, it
was the first step to fixing their friendship.

As the story starts to develop in ‘Smoke Signals’, so does their friendship. Thomas and
Victor take a bus all the way to Arizona and on the

way; Thomas decides to tell Victor some
stories about his father to pass the time. Thomas speaks of time that he had a dream to go to the
Dam and wait for a sign. But while he was sitting there waiting for that sign, Victors’ dad
appeared and asked what T
homas was doing. Thomas told him about his dream and Victors’ dad
told Thomas he was taking to Denny’s for breakfast. As Thomas told this story, Victor started to
feel angry again at his dad. He snapped at Thomas and told him his stories were stupid and
intless. This could have put their friendship to a holt but this shows that Thomas feels
comfortable enough to bring up such a touchy topic with Victor. Their friendship is getting
closer but Victor is still pushing Thomas away. This could be because Thoma
s has known Victor
his whole life and is afraid to open up or he doesn’t want to get close to Thomas.

The film is coming to a close when Thomas and Victor reach his dads place. By this time
Victor just wants to grab his dad’s ashes and belongings and leave
. Thomas decides to stay
overnight with Victors’ dads neighbor, Susie Song. She had had the opportunity to get to know
Victors’ dad before he died. In this part of ‘Smoke Signals’, Susie and Victor decided to go play
basketball while Thomas slept in her tr

As they played ball, Susie told stories about how
she met his dad and how they were friends who kept each other’s secrets. She told about how his
dad never meant to stay away, that he was coming back. Victor didn’t believe this at first, he
t except the fact his dad still loved him. This may not connect Thomas and Victor
together directly but after Susie told Victor this, he started to open up more to people, including

When Thomas and Victor finally reached their reservation again, Victor gave half of his
dad’s ashes to Thomas. Victor and Thomas’s relationship has grown closer and better. Victor
feels so close to Thomas that he gave half his dad to him; it is almost as i
f Victor is saying they
are brothers. Thomas feels honored and tells Victor that he will take his dad’s ashes and pour
them into the raging Dam and watch him rise like a beautiful salmon. Thomas an Victor have
become something more than just friends in the

movie ‘Smoke Signals’. From their childhood
fights and misunderstandings to a road that took back everything and made them brothers.

Paper 1

Despite the differences in the movie, Smoke Signals, and the

book which it was based off of, This Is What It M
eans to Say

Phoenix, Arizona, by Sherman J. Alexie, they share a common

theme. The symbols in the story and movie describe the

development of friendships and relationships between the two

main characters and the underlying themes of new beginnings,


and deeper understandings.

Both the book’s and movie’s symbolic titles lead to

their themes. In the book the title is This Is What It Means

to Say Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix has two meanings in the

book.. One is the more obvious and literal meaning of

oenix which is the place: Phoenix, Arizona. This is the

place that the two main characters, Thomas and Victor,

travel to in order to claim Victor’s father’s

possessions after he died of a heart attack. The place is

important in the theme of the book becaus
e it symbolizes the

beginning of Victor’s new life and rebirth. The second

meaning is a reference to the mythical bird known as the

Phoenix. A Phoenix is said to burn up every 500 years. From

the ashes of the bird is born a new Phoenix. This


of the theme directly supports the theme of

rebirth because Phoenix symbolizes Victor’s rebirth from

the ashes. The ashes which symbolize Victor’s rebirth are

then found in Phoenix, Arizona where the two boys collect

Victor’s father’s ashes after his crem

The title of the movie Smoke Signals also relates to the

overall theme of the film. Unlike the stories title, the

film’s is much more literal. Smoke signals are meant as an

SOS of the woods. When someone is in need of help, they send

up smoke signa
ls in order to send a message telling that

they need assistance of some sort. Smoke signals can often

be difficult to interpret. These signals apply to the theme

of the movie because they describe the figurative SOS that

Victor unconsciously sent up and th
at Thomas was lucky

enough to spot. Based on the title of the movie, the theme

of the movie becomes understanding and new beginnings. The

figurative smoke signals lead to the journey that the two

boys went on to Phoenix, Arizona. The result of this journey

was a deeper understanding of each other and of possible new


Not only do the titles in the movie and story portray the

theme, but the prominent shared symbol, fire, is also a key

factor in the theme. Fire as a symbol can often have many

ings. When used in the same context as a mythical bird,

the Phoenix, fire signifies upward mobility, forward motion,

and rising aspirations, like the rising flames and smoke

from a fire. This is interpreted in both the story and


The symbol of fire
and fireworks on Independence Day was

prominent in both movie and story. The tradition of

fireworks on Independence Day symbolizes the rebirth of the

United States as the US gained independence from Great

Britain. In the story, fireworks appeared when the
boys were

talking about their plans to go watch the fireworks. While

waiting impatiently for Thomas, Victor angrily exclaims that

they’re “going to miss the fireworks”(270). The

fireworks symbolize rebirth and moving on. This subtle hint

of rebirth and new

beginnings once again reinforces the

theme of the story.

Fireworks on Independence Day were also, and more so,

prominent in the movie. The movie began with a house fire on

the 4th of July. The house fire was started by Victor’s

father, Arnold, and kille
d Thomas’ parents, almost killing

Thomas. Victor told Thomas that his “father was the one

that set [Thomas’] parent’s house on fire”. This

incident not only symbolizes the rebirth that Independence

Day symbolizes, but also the reason for the need to start

anew: the shameful mistakes which are made throughout life.

Ash was yet another prominent symbol in the story and film.

Ash appears in the cremation of Victor’s father in both

sources. Cremation can be tied back to the original title of

the story, Phoenix
(the mythical bird). A Phoenix cremates

itself in order to begin again with a fresh start and a new

beginning from the ashes. In the story, the narrator briefly

mentions that Victor’s father was cremated. Victor tells

the tribal council that his father “ha
d to be

cremated”(269). In the movie the cremation and ash were

much larger parts of the plot. In the movie the cremation is

mentioned multiple times along with the multiple references

to ash. Thomas decides that “there are some children who

are just pilla
rs of ash, that fall apart when you touch

them…Victor and me, we were children of…ash.” This

means that both Victor and Thomas have the opportunities to

have fresh starts and new beginnings from the ashes of

Victor’s father. Like a Phoenix, Thomas and Vict
or have

the opportunity to be reborn.

The film and story have many differences and similarities.

The most significant similarity is the theme. Due to the

shared symbols in the story and film, the theme of both

becomes one of rebirth, forgiveness and new b

Hannah Kinniburgh

April 12, 2011

Essay 1 draft #2

English & 126

Throughout history the art of storytelling has transformed the way we interact with culture,
historical occasions, and people in our everyda
y lives. It has encouraged people in hard times, and
warned people of consequences for actions, while also enthralling others with the wit and beauty
behind each story. In the short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” by Sherman Alexie
d the film based on this story
Smoke Signals
, storytelling is entwined throughout the plot. Although
both Medias have similar themes, their interpretation of the stories and their meanings are portrayed
differently. As the characters move through an emotio
nal journey together, the elements of storytelling
evolve; these changes enable the characters to move from their past pains and memories to accept and
progress forward with what the future may hold.

Storytelling allows the mind to drift into a place of
enchantment, a world in between reality and
the vision of a blameless humanity. It allows the teller and receiver to be connected by a common
ground. In both portrayals of the plot, the main character Victor and the secondary main character
Thomas are bein
g united by the act of storytelling. In the short story, it is described that Thomas was
born to tell stories, but because of his ideas, “Nobody talked to [him] anymore because he told the same
stories over and over again” (Alexie 270). This causes a lot o
f friction between the characters because
Victor is fighting against his childhood urge to ignore Thomas, while his mind and emotions are willing
him to listen. The short story depicts this relationship a bit differently from the movie though; in the

story Victor is much more open to a new mindset and Thomas’ stories. He will often end up saying
“Hey… tell me a story” (270) and realizes this is important to the rekindling of their relationship.
Whereas, in the movie, Victor is facing an inner emotiona
l battle after losing his father that abandoned
him, he is not at a stage ready to accept Thomas’s compassion through his stories. This difference in the
way Victor embraces the stories is a key element in understanding the relationship between the stories

and Victor’s road to forgiveness.

Understanding the relationship of the stories that Thomas relays gives Victor the chance to
acknowledge Thomas and the advice he has to offer. In the short story, Victor feels like he owes it to
Thomas to listen and resp
ect his opinions because the theme is based on his forgiveness and revival of
friendship with Thomas. Victor realizes he has made mistakes of hurting Thomas in the past, he
remembers when “[he] was really drunk and beat Thomas up for no reason” (271). One
could argue as a
child Victor’s emotional baggage from his dad leaving and the confinement of growing up in a secluded
Indian reservation was taken out on Thomas. This built up a wall of resentment in Victor that he
struggles to release in the book. As he
makes amends he feels like he owes Thomas but also knows he
can never truly repay him for his kindness. In the movie, the theme is altered to represent Victor and his
inner battles to forgive his father; this change in theme hinders the allowance for the o
pportunity of
Thomas’ stories to impact Victor. However, some of his ideas break though to Victor as they continue
their journey. Thomas understands Victor is on a road of forgiveness and offers words of advice through
one of his stories. He explained his

How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too
often, or forever, when we were little? … For never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our
fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deat
hs, saying it to them or not saying it. If we forgive our
fathers, what is left?

This passage from the movie represents the inner battle Victor is facing and Thomas’ acknowledgement
to the situation. Through Thomas’ storytelling, Victor was able to embrace

the fact that his father had
left him and his mother and forgive him. He realizes forgiveness is the only way to release this situation
forever from his internal burdens. By apprehending the stories, one is able to see hoe the act of
storytelling as well
as the actual stories can change a person’s perspective and enable them to move
forward with their lives.

The change in perspective can often evolve also with the actual stories themselves. In the short
story by Sherman Alexie, Thomas relies on his abilit
y to recount the past to prove his opinions. He often
refers back to their childhood; at one point in the story he shares an experience where “[he] had this
dream… stand by the falls in the middle of the city and wait for a sign” (273). He later explains t
he sign
was Victor’s father and the answer pressing down on Thomas, telling him to “Take care of each other”
(273). This helps Victor acknowledge his dad still cared about him, and it gave a reason to why Thomas
would help Victor. This passage was expresse
d a little differently in the movie; Victor takes this
information in with annoyance he expresses that he has “heard it a million times”. One could also argue
it enhances his inner battle to always see his father only as a bad person. This story portrays h
is father as
a decent individual; Victor up to this point can only see the faults within his father. Another type of story
used was a myth. Thomas uses this type for his story telling to show Victor the importance of dreaming
without boundaries, including
in a world that is not shaded with imperfections. In the short story he tells
a story of two warriors who “stole a car and drove to the city. They parked the stolen car in front of the
police station… [They] were ‘very brave” (270). This story portrayed “w
arriors” who were able to do a
heroic deed; this showed Victor there is decency in the world, and at times you have to be the one who
pursues it. This helped Victor on his process of forgiving by reminding him to seek the good outcomes in
hard to see situa
tions like the abandonment by his father and move forward to what may lay ahead.

Storytelling enables the characters, especially Victor to forgive and shed his past painful
memories and emotions. The elements of storytelling evolved along with the plot an
d this allowed for
more opinions to be presented to the characters. Without storytelling in our past, humanity would not
be where it is today. These oral traditions have been pasted down through the generations. They need
to be continued in order for stori
es like the one presented in these two Medias to affect people and
present to them the opportunity for forgiveness and discarding their old burdens.

Evan Green

Throughout the history of humans, many messages have been received through stories.
There ar
e stories found on walls of caves from thousands of years ago, and there are still stories
published every day that recite good morals and values. Throughout the Native American
culture, stories, myths, and legends are a big part of their way of teaching.
They have also been a
big way of showing care for others. In the movie “Smoke Signals” and the story “This Is What It
Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”, stories play a big part of Thomas and Victor’s journey. They
provide moral support and help people make va
st realizations. In both the stories characters find
a whole new relationship throughout their journey after they’ve made these realizations.

Victor’s biggest problem in the movie is that he’s mad at his father for leaving him when
he was young. He is m
ad at him and thinks that he just ran away and doesn’t want to come back.
Suzy song, a girl that was her father’s neighbor, helped greatly with Victor’s doubts. She helped
through the act of storytelling. She told Victor about a story his father told her.
In this story,
Victor and his father played against two grown men in a basketball game when victor was only
seven years old. He told Suzy Song that Victor made the winning shot in the game, when in
reality, he missed that shot. Victor’s father’s story made

him realize that his father still cared for
him and he was still proud of him. Suzy Song talked about a lot of stories that Victor’s father
told about him.

Among the stories Suzy song told, was the fact that Victor’s father never touched a drop
of alcoh
ol after he left. Before his dad left, almost all the problems in Victor’s family came from
alcohol. The house fire that killed Thomas’s parents was caused by Victor’s father. The reason
he started this fire was because he was drunk and he didn’t know what

he was doing with the
fireworks on the fourth of July. Almost all of the bad memories Victor had in the movie had to
do with alcohol. In one scene Victor’s father hit him over a spilt beer. I don’t blame Victor for
being mad at his father because there is

no reason to hit a child. I think that meant a lot to Victor
to hear his father didn’t drink anymore. I think he was happy he quit drinking, but mad that he
didn’t do it for his family and return back home.

The fact that Victor was mad was reasonable, b
ut Suzy Song helped with the stories she
told him. She said he always planned to go back. Victor didn’t quite believe her until he found
what was in his dad’s wallet in the trailer. He found a picture of his family with his father in it
and “home” was writ
ten on the back. This was the point where his relationship with his father
took a turn for the better. He finally realized that all Suzy’s stories were true. He realized that his
father wasn’t running away, he was trying to get back home the whole time. In

fact, at the end of
the movie he said he wasn’t running away.

I think this story gave Victor a whole new outlook on life. On his way home, he got in an
accident with a drunken man. He ran to try and get help until he fell and became unconscious.
his journey, Victor would have never cared for anyone else enough to put himself through
so much strain for anyone else. His relationship improved with his father, and it improved with
the whole community.

Although Victor’s relationship was greatly impacted with his father in the movie, he was
too young when his father left in the story, "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”, for
him to be affected by it. He doesn’t remember his father, so he has n
o relationship to repair. In
the story, however, victor finds a new relationship with Thomas. Thomas was a really weird guy
that didn’t have many friends. Victor only invited him along because he had the money for the
trip to Arizona. Even though Victor wa
s annoyed with Thomas most of the time, Victor Thomas
taught Victor a very important lesson. He told a story about Victor’s father taking him to
Denny’s. The message of his story was to care for each other. I think Victor took this story to
heart, and he h
ad a new outlook on his relationship with Thomas. They became closer after their

Throughout Thomas and Victor’s journey in the book and the movie, they learned very
important lessons. They also found value in their relationships with other peop
le and the
community. They also learned important messages that may have even been life changing
through story.

Lauren Cary


Paper 1, Draft 1

The act of finding oneself is truly a lifelong investment. At what point does one even begin?
Some people swear by the method of going on a retreat of sorts, and waiting for a message to unveil
itself from some unseen force. One of the more circulated and
logical ways to understand your own life,
though, is to first understand those around you who have the greatest impacts on your life. Throughout
Victor and Thomas’ journey in both the film
Smoke Signals
and the short story, “This is What it Means to
Say Ph
oenix, Arizona,” by Sherman Alexie, the numerous flashbacks and stories provide Victor with
insight into his relationships with those around him, guiding him towards a place of acceptance for
himself and for those closest to him.

In both sources, Victor a
nd Thomas spend the earlier part of their lives as friends. After Victor’s
father had rescued Thomas from the house fire that killed his parents in “This is What it Means to Say
Phoenix, Arizona,” the two boys had a fairly healthy relationship. One of the
flashbacks is of Thomas
telling Victor a story. It is about two Indian boys becoming modern
day warriors and returning to a
community that tells them, “You were very brave” (Alexie 270). The story possibly has some type of
meaning behind it, but if focus
is put into the context in which the story was told, a greater meaning can
be discovered. An important focal point in this flashback is the fact that Victor asked Thomas to tell him
a story at all. In the present tense of the book, Thomas is seen as the ou
tcast in the reservation,
alienating himself by his constant storytelling, so for Victor to express a desire to hear these stories
shows the evident friendship the two had in the past.

Another way the two boys’ friendship is made evident in the short stor
y is during a flashback to
when the boys were twelve. Victor had is foot caught in an underground wasps nest, and “he might
have died there, stung a thousand times, if Thomas Builds
Fire had not come by” (Alexie 273). This
flashback helps the reader de
velop a deeper understanding of Victor and Thomas’ friendship, showing
an imminent example of the things they had been through together. While this could have been the only
event like this to occur between the boys, it is still one that will make an imprin
t on someone (like
Victor’s) memory.

While many of the story’s flashbacks were there to provide insight into the boys’ friendship,
some were there to show how they became distanced. When the boys were 15 years old “and had long
since stopped being friend
s” (Alexie 271), Victor became intoxicated and beat Thomas up. There was no
reason for this, but Thomas still didn’t become angry with Victor. Even though Victor didn’t treat
Thomas with the respect he deserved, Thomas still respected him. What happens in
the story before the
flashback is Victor accepting Thomas’ offer to help him travel to gather his father’s belongings. Both of
these passages provide examples of Thomas’s unwillingness to turn on Victor, no matter what Victor
does to him. This proves that
Thomas will always be there for Victor.

Over the course of the boys’ great adventure, Victor becomes generally more accepting of
Thomas. When they had returned home, Thomas asked Victor to listen to just one of his stories, and,
“Victor waved his arms to
let Thomas know that the deal was good” (Alexie 276). Not only did Victor
embrace Thomas, he also saw a new side of his father. Up until the trip, it seemed as if Victor had
resentment towards his father and his actions. But after hearing one of Thomas’s m
any stories relating
to his father, he “searched his mind for memories of his father, found the good ones, found a few bad
ones, added it all up, and smiled” (Alexie 273). It’s possible that Victor felt indifferent towards his father,
or maybe even dislike
d him, but once he had been through so much growth in his own human nature it
seems that he reached a level of neutral feelings. Love is not the apparent feeling, but maybe there is a
touch of affection that had before been missing, because after all, what

Victor’s father did shaped
whom he turned out to be.

After completing the journey to Arizona and experiencing many different emotions, Victor
returned to the reservation a new man. He found new interest in his once lost friendship with Thomas,
and he eve
n returned with a little fondness in his heart for his father. While these new feelings were
possibly only a small internal feat, they helped make Victor a more understanding person in the end.

Nowadays, many children grow up with only one parental figure

which can cause a strain on
their relationship with that parent. The short story of, “What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” and the
movie Smoke Signals are both based along the same story and plot line. There are some distinct
differences between the two
, but he message seems to be around the same. When considering the
flashbacks, stories, and non
verbal communication, it is easy to see the changes that Victor went
through while becoming a better person throughout he and Thomas’ journey.

In the beginning

of the short story, it’s not hard to tell Victor had been going through a rough
patch for awhile. Within the first line it says, “Just after Victor had lost his job…he had also found out
that his father had died” (268). By reading this in the start of the

story, the author may be
foreshadowing what is going to happen next. In the short story when Victor’s dad dies, he goes straight
to Tribal Council; whereas in the movie, he asks Thomas for the money because he does not really have
anybody else. The next f
lashback showed us the past friendships and hardships between the two boys.

Thomas, in both the movie and the story comes across as one of those weird, crazy, out casted
people that nobody particularly wants to hang out with. The action of Victor going to

Thomas shows
tome strength in Victor because it shows that Victor wants to take responsibility in taking care of his
dad. This shows strength because Victor’s dad wasn’t ever really there for him. In the movie, he left
because he had a drinking problem. I
n the story, I don’t think there was ever really a legitimate reason
why he left. Considering both instances, Victor still never had a dad around to grow up with. His action
of going to Thomas to ask for money even though they weren’t “really friends anymo
re” (270) shows
Victor to be a strong man.

The journey the acquaintances shared in the movie and in the short story are vastly different. In
the movie Smoke Signals, most of the story seemed to be based more so on Thomas and Victor’s
journey there. In the
story, it is a more paraphrased and shortened version of the same basic storyline.
In both cases, they talk about memories they had shared together when they were younfer. When they
talk about the time Victor beat Thomas up in the story, Victor apologizes,

and says, “I’m still sorry”
(272). This is evidence that Victor hadn’t really given Thomas a shot since their last falling out. Now, he is
learning to accept Thomas’ differences. The movie seems to show their friendship having a deeper
connection than it
says in the book.

Thomas Builds
Fire always seemed to tell a mountainous amount of stories to everyone, but
nobody ever really knew how to decipher the true from the false. One story that you could tell was true
is when Thomas tells Victor the story ab
out his father and Spokane Falls. Earlier in the text, Thomas had
already talked about how he had dreamed of going to Spokane Falls and he ended up walking there.
After Thomas had walked there, he saw Arthur, Victor’s dad, and they went to Denny’s. At the
end of
Thomas’ story, he says, “Your dad was my vision. Take care of each other is what my dreams were
saying” (273). Then Thomas goes on to say, “I came because of your father” (274). This story that
Thomas tells is both apparent in Smoke Signals and “Wha
t it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” In both
cases, Victor seems to be speechless, which could show that he really did care about his dad, no matter
what walls he had put in place.

In the movie when they get to Arthur’s trailer in Phoenix, Arizona it isn’t

easy to tell that Victor
has nerves and emotions about his father. Suzie Song (who was living there, or close nearby) tells Victor
stories about his father that his own son didn’t know. She tells him the story that Arthur was the one
that started the fire

that most of the movie circled around. There was one turning point where Victor
was looking through the remains of his dad’s trailer, and he found a picture of Arthur, Victor, and
Victor’s mom. Victor turned over the picture, and the back said, “home.” Th
is was a big point for Victor
in the movie, and where he really did realize his dad cared. The picture was a big significance in the

One of the last moments that you could tell Victor had grown as a person is when he gave
Thomas the ashes in the st
ory. By Victor giving Thomas ashes, it shows that he and Thomas had rebuilt a
relationship that they had made when they were very young. Victor almost accepting Thomas as a friend
shows that he isn’t some stuck up kid like he used to be. Even though he did

say in the story that they
couldn’t be “friends,” they will probably end up being in a better place than they were before.

Family leaving can always be tough on a child, but like Victor has shown in this story; even
though it is tough on a child, you ca
n overcome it. Victor shows growth by accepting more people and
accepting things that have happened to him and moving on from the past.