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This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” by Sherman Alexie. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the text

Title: “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” (1993)
Author: Sherman Alexie
Genre: Short story

Sherman Alexie (b. 1966) is a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene -Native American writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and used his experiences as an Indigenous American in many of his short stories and novels. The short story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” was published in 1993 in the collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.  

Extract 

Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

One of the most important moments of the story happens when, as Victor and Thomas pass through Nevada, they accidentally kill a long-eared jackrabbit who runs in front of the pickup truck: 

‘The only thing alive in this whole state and we just killed it.’

‘I don't know,’ Thomas said. ‘I think it was suicide.’

Victor looked around the desert, sniffed the air, felt the emptiness and loneliness, and nodded his head. 

(…)

‘I can't believe this,’ Thomas said. ‘You drive for a thousand miles and there ain't even any bugs smashed on the windshield. I drive for ten seconds and kill the only living thing in Nevada.’ (p. 10, ll. 21-28)

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This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

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