Monday, May 30, 2011

Dreams and visions in "Indian Killer"

As I read Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie I used sticky notes to keep track of where dreams/visions occurred or were mentioned in the book.

SPOILERS

However, I soon stopped keeping track of John's visions. Why? Because he's crazy. I certainly could examine his visions as I do the others in the book, but I'm not going to do that here.

Also, my writing here will be MESSY. Some of what I write here I've already thought about, some of it you'll see the thought process as it's happening and I won't bother to clean it up. It'll get cleaned up elsewhere.


"In that dream, a figure stood on the top floor of the last skyscraper in Seattle. It was dark in the dream, only a sliver of moon illuminating the building. The foreman approached the figure. With its back turned, the figure could have been a man or woman. The foreman was scared of the figure, but also very curious. The figure held an object in its hand. Something valuable, a gift for the foreman perhaps. The foreman stepped beside the figure, and both stared down at the street hundreds of feet below. Suddenly afraid of falling, the foreman woke with a sudden start and sat up in bed" (82).

The dreamer is the foreman who supervises John at work. I think we can safely assume that the figure in the dream is John.

We do know that John thinks of killing the foreman on the fortieth floor of the building. We also know that in the end of the book John takes Wilson to the fortieth floor. However, we don't know what floor they're on in this dream.

What is the significance of the skyscraper itself?

(Does the foreman have a name? I can't remember...)

And what's the figure (John) holding in his hand? The foreman thinks that it is important, and possible even a gift for him. We know that in the end of the book John has a knife that he cuts Wilson with. We also know that Wilson has a knife that he's killed (or will kill) others with. So, is there a significance to the thing in the figure's hand possibly being for the foreman, and being something special?

...so I've written a bunch of random (or not so random) stuff here but haven't really discussed how it contributes to the story! lol

I guess it's a foreshadowing, and it is something hinting to the foreman that he's on the right track. Which would be sort of a cliche, since later on in the book it is mentioned that Wilson uses dreams in his own (bad) Indian stories, and it is stated of Wilson that "he knew that Indians were supposed to listen carefully to their dreams. Aristotle Little Hawk had solved more than one crime by using information he had obtained in dreams" (338).

So, why does Alexie give the foreman a dream only to later make a point about how it's such a sad cliche for Native Americans to have dreams? Then again, the dream doesn't exactly help the foreman. It could be said that it's just an expression of what's already on the foreman's mind.


"A little after ten that night, he woke from a nightmare he could not remember, but he felt its residual effects, the sweat, racing heart, tensed muscles" (97).

I'm not sure what the significance of this unknown dream is, and all we know about it is the effects it had on John. It also reminded him of when he'd thought he was pregnant.


"That night, Olivia Smith dreamed: Father Duncan dipping baby John into the baptismal; four year old John heaving a basket-ball towards the hoop as Daniel laughs and claps his hands; Daniel kissing down her belly; John's naked body, bloody and brown, dumped on a snow plain. Olivia dreamed: a red tricycle; lightning illuminating a stranger standing at a window; pine trees on fire; an abandoned hound mournfully howling beside a country road. Olivia dreamed: John standing alone on the last skyscraper in Seattle as wind whips his hair across his face; Daniel holding her head under water at Lake Sammamish until she panics; the moon rising above the Space Needle; Father Duncan dipping the adult John into the baptismal" (220-1).

The dream(s?) begin and end with John being baptized by Father Duncan. However, he is a baby in the beginning and and adult in the end.

Ok, so the dream seems to be in three sections, and I'm gonna look at them separately first.

That night, Olivia Smith dreamed: Father Duncan dipping baby John into the baptismal; four year old John heaving a basket-ball towards the hoop as Daniel laughs and claps his hands; Daniel kissing down her belly; John's naked body, bloody and brown, dumped on a snow plain.


Here we've got good things. Mostly. We've got John as a baby being baptized, later playing ball with his father, Olivia's husband making love to her. But then, we have John's death.

One of these things is not like the others. Can you figure out which it is?

So what's up with John's death suddenly being in there? Is it a sign of how quickly John changed? We do know from later in the book that the change seemed very sudden to Olivia.

Also, John dies after she removed her attention from him to pay attention to her husband kissing her tummy. Does that mean that she was too busy paying attention to other things to notice the change happening in John?

Olivia dreamed: a red tricycle; lightning illuminating a stranger standing at a window; pine trees on fire; an abandoned hound mournfully howling beside a country road.


First we have something we might associate with childhood innocence and fun: a tricycle. However, it's red, which although a typical color is also the color of blood. And after that we have scary images.

What's their point? Maybe the stranger is her changed son, the tree is...something scary...and the hound is showing how she feels?

Olivia dreamed: John standing alone on the last skyscraper in Seattle as wind whips his hair across his face; Daniel holding her head under water at Lake Sammamish until she panics; the moon rising above the Space Needle; Father Duncan dipping the adult John into the baptismal


John at work, her husband playing and taking things too far, a serene image, and John being baptized as an adult.

This section beings and ends with John.

But why is John being baptized as an adult? He was already baptized as a baby. Maybe it's showing that he's a new person, and the individual he used to be no longer exists?

And why is the water thing there? We know that John later sees whites as flames. So was her whiteness being removed, by the flame being smothered under water? Was this an event that even actually took place?

And the space needle. What about that? Well, it's really tall, tall as a skyscraper, which is what John works on building. But I don't think the Space Needle is mentioned anywhere else in the book (or is it?) so I don't know what it's doing...


"Daniel dreamed: his secretary leaning over his desk with papers to sign; the Bainbridge Island ferry crossing rough waters. Daniel dreamed: young John running across a field; a stranger hammering nails into a joist. Daniel dreamed: a red truck breaking through a guardrail; a pistol firing. Daniel dreamed: a man screaming; John standing over the bed" (221).

Again it's in sections, but not the way Olivia's dream was. They're more, and shorter. Much shorter. So short and so many that I'm not gonna separate them.

Here Daniel dreams of work, his child, and then "a stranger hammering nails into a joist." The stranger is probably John as an adult in his job making skyscrapers. And it's showing that John is now a stranger. Immediately following is "a red truck breaking through a guardrail; a pistol firing." We have the color red again (his wife had dreamed about a red tricycle on the previous page) this time the color belongs to a vehicle that's in trouble. And then there's the gun, which indicates violence. Hmm...and then there's screaming. And then, hold on, John is in his bedroom, standing over him.

Well, I think it's safe to say that John was actually there. Daniel and Olivia both smell him (which I think is sort of weird) and then Olivia finds that someone has had a snack of roast. She assumes it's her husband, but why can't it be their son? We already know that he comes and stands outside their house at night sometimes. Why wouldn't he sneak in for a snack, and even go up to their room?

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