With the severity of the Native American plight, escapism is a very realistic and practical defense against misery. This is quite evident in Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven. In this novel, Alexie captures an elaborate depiction of reservation life. The characters are terminally suspended in the abyss commonly known as the Spokane Indian Reservation. As Alexie catalogs their hardships, the characters of the novel indulge in the comforts of alcoholism and unbridled imagination. Through alcoholism, the character Thomas Builds-The-Fire uses the depths of his own creative mind to hide himself in the past.
There is a commonality among the reservation Indians in the novel that centers on alcoholism. The men and women of the Spokane Indian Reservation see their world largely through a thick, alcoholic haze. Drinking is a powerful defense against the stark reality that nothing ever changes on the reservation. In this state of shared depression, this familiar stupor, the reservation Indians cloak themselves in sorrow. If the characters were unable to mend their hardships in reality, through alcohol they most certainly could bend their perceptions of truth. There are several instances throughout the novel in which Alexie describes alcoholic experiences as a positive means of escape. For example, in All I Wanted To Do Was Dance, Victor looks over to his drunken parents and “Everything was familiar and welcome. Everything was beautiful” (87). The warmth of the alcoholic embrace was apparently comforting to Victor, and he goes on to say that his father would “sit with a cooler of beer beside him…his bad breath and body odor covering me like a blanket.”(26). In Every Little Hurricane, Victor depicts his father drinking in a dream; Victor describes the alcohol as “near poison” and a “reservation tsunami”, using very negative connotations. Yet, Victor also portrays his Father as being bold while drunk, with statements like “[He] wasn’t shaped like a question mark…more like an exclamation point” (6). Victor reflects in hindsight that “He thought one more beer could save the world.”(88). So, throughout the novel, Sherman Alexie perpetuates this duality of notions toward alcoholism.
Though alcohol brought release, it also leeched away the sweet vitality of the reservation Indians. In the novel, drinking only serves to ruin relationships, twist lives and magnify their difficulties. Sherman Alexie brings this reality into full view by coupling this theme with every drunken interlude. For example, “I…wished I was drunk enough to pull the trigger” (43). “I got drunk…so I wouldn’t be scared.”(112) and “With every glass of beer…he began to understand too much about fear and failure” (134). These passages indicate not only the reality of such a grim comfort but also a continually deteriorating cycle within the Spokane Indian society.