Our final essay is a response/reaction to the novel War Dances, by Sherman Alexie. This is an interesting creative work that blends poetry with short fiction. Create a thesis related to the characters, themes, settings, or style of the novel, which you’ll support with relevant examples chosen from the text. Essentially though, it’ a report on the things you find interesting, unusual, or perhaps confusing in the novel.

You may create your own topic, but here are some other questions for you to consider. As always, you must develop your own thesis.

1. Most of our experiences in life are filtered through our own unique perception of events. Much of our perception is affected by our own sense of identity who we are shapes how we see to some extent. Choose one or more aspects of identity (i.e. age, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality) that affect how characters in the stories or speakers in the poems in War Dances experience events in their life. Discuss the relationships between one’s identity and their thoughts and/or actions. Use specific examples to illustrate these points.

2. Many of the stories and most of the poetry have to do with modern-day males expression of emotion. Emotionality is sometimes considered the flip-side of rationality, wherein one’s reason can balance one’s feelings. Of course this works well as long as one achieves and maintains a balance. Choose characters in the stories or poems in War Dances that show men dealing with, or trying to deal with, their powerful emotions. What are the challenges? Who/What is successful? What, if anything, does this examination of male emotion in the book show to readers?

3. Human beings are both unique individuals as well as social animals. That is, our membership in group(s) (familial, tribal, cultural, etc.) and our relationships with other people may be nearly as important as our individual sense of identity. Analyze some of the relationships shown in the poems and stories in War Dances. What do these relationships show about the characters/speakers?

4. In the story The Senator’s Son, the father tells the son, [w]e are tested, all of us. We are constantly and consistently given the choice. Good or evil. Light or darkness. Love or hate. Some of those decisions are huge and tragic (pp.91-2). Choose some of the poems and/or stories from the book where characters are tested. What choices did they make? How did they come to terms with those choices? What does it show? Are there dichotomies other than those from the above quote, which inform your understanding of the themes in War Dances?

5. You likely noticed other themes in the book War Dances. If you choose this question, you may develop an analysis of any theme you found interesting. As with any of the questions, use specific examples from the stories and poems to develop your essay.


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