Analysis of Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”

The story takes place on the streets of Seattle. It follows Jackson Jackson around the streets, from bars to railway yards, and the docks.  A mysterious pawnshop also is part of the setting, that seems to disappear and re-appear at different times.  The story is about a homeless native Indian that wants to buy his grandmothers dancing regalia for a thousand dollars.  It tells the story of his and other tribes past, and relates each to the person.  Every time he gets money, he ends up spending it on booze or food, but never gets enough to buy it back from the pawnshop.  But in the end, the pawnshop owner gives it to him for the $5.00 Jackson has left.  He leaves the shop wearing the regalia and dancing in the streets.

The theme seemed to be this homeless Indian, with no money, wants to connect with his past or roots of his ancestry.  No matter how hard he tries to get the money to buy his grandmothers dancing dress from the pawnshop, he keeps spending his money on other people.  Usually it is just to get everyone drunk, but he shares the money he gets with the other Indians he meets.  The symbol to me is Jackson’s grandmothers dancing dress.  It symbolizes the past he seems to be trying to connect with.  The pawnshop with the dress seems to appear mysteriously; and the owner even seems strange by giving him $20.00 to start him off on the one day adventure. He doesn’t get the money to buy the dress back, but the owner sells it to him for the $5.00 he now had on him.  He wasn’t perfect, just like the dress had one yellow bead hidden; but he was part of the whole Indian dress, and all Indians.


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