Hearing Voices: A Good Thing?
Voice. Though Junior tells instead of shows, he does so through one-liners such as “there is nothing better than a [Kentucky Fried Chicken] leg when you haven't eaten for (approximately) eighteen-and-a-half hours” (Alexie 8). He goes on to explain that the worst thing about poverty isn't hunger and describes how he had to carry his sick dog outside to his waiting father: “A bullet only costs about two cents, and anybody can afford that” (Alexie 14). Junior's voice is a compelling mix of both the hilarious and tragic.
Creating a compelling voice for one character is a challenge on its own, but what about works with multiple points of view? When I first read Rita Garcia-Williams's Jumped, the story of a girl fight told through three voices, I found two of the voices stood out distinctly because they were linked to personal passions.
Trina's obsession is art: “Add color, my crazy point of view, and – bam! – I make you look twice” (Williams-Garcia 7). This love colors her world, and she sees everything through a rosy pink filter, including others' opinions of her. Dominique just needs to punch that ball down. Basketball, volleyball, any kind of ball. Even her sentences come out like basketball dribbling:
I punch Vivica.
Vivica punches Shayne.
Shayne punches me.
I punch Viv.
Light punches. Sweet punches. They don't mean anything. (Williams-Garcia 13)
So why was the voice of the third girl, Leticia, so hard to distinguish? She does have a passion for her cell phone and even names it: “I keep Celina on vibrate, stashed in my bag” (Williams-Garcia 23). Was her voice simply not as well connected to her passion? Or was her less distinctive voice done on purpose?
Leticia's lack of voice sets up her position as a passive viewer. She sees life like she's watching TV. Even when she reflects back on a time when she walked in on a teacher having a medical emergency, she describes the incident as “like watching a reality-TV show” (Williams-Garcia 141).
Though Trina is disfigured at the novel's conclusion and Dominique in jail, I'm left feeling most sorry for Leticia. In living only for the sound bites of life, she is missing out on her own life potential. She has no understanding of how real the consequences of the event she could have stopped were and her only regret is that she didn't make TV herself:
And I'm like, wow, I finally know real people on television. And to think, I was there when it all went down. I could have been on that news program being interviewed. I knew all about it from start to finish. I just look at the TV and I can't believe it. I just can't believe it. (Williams-Garcia 167-168).
Sometimes hearing voices is a good thing. Maybe sometimes, it's better not to hear a voice.
- Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Print.
- Williams-Garcia, Rita. Jumped. New York: HarperTeen, 2009. Print.