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Essay on 'Smoke Signals' and the Path to Self-Revelation of Its Main Character

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In ‘Smoke Signals’, the hero, Victor Joseph, is tested to reclassify his self-idea and furthermore the convictions he has of his dad. The early introduction we get from Victor is that he has a terrible disposition. In any case, it is obvious that he is definitely not a bad person. We are given the inclination that he is somewhat lost and that he doesn’t generally have the foggiest idea of what his identity is. The film takes us with Victor on his excursion toward self-revelation and I will examine the scenes where representation becomes inherent.

A great part of the film’s theme is related to honesty, both in the manner in which the characters are delineated and furthermore in its utilization of film location at the Coeur D’Alene reservation which is truly in the middle of nowhere. It is clear in this film that the reservations are dilapidated and much of what the Indians own is unfair. Thomas and Victor later got a ride to the bus station by two young teen girls in a jalopy stuck in reverse. Before they permit the two young men in the car, they request a deal for the ride. Thomas is a visionary and a story-teller, who every so often drives Victor to interruption with his Shaman-like stories. Thomas proposes a story as trade and continues to turn out a story of Alvin Joseph as an activist Indian anti-war hippie in 1967, to Victor’s dismay. To Victor’s grumbling this never occurred, Thomas just grins and a shrug of the shoulders. The two girls, Lucy and Velma then joke about passports and immunizations being essential to leave the reservation and enter a ‘foreign country’. Though Thomas and Victor needn’t bother with passports, they really are heading off to a different country when they leave the reservation. The character’s dialogue about being a foreigner in their own country is not a far-fetched outlook. Representation of Native Americans in America always has the negative connotation of being outsiders and simply out of place.

During the ride to Phoenix, Victor and Thomas talk about what means being an Indian just as what being a human means. Furthermore, Victor is on a mission to make Thomas look ‘more Indian’. According to Baldonado, “often we think of representation primarily as ‘presence’ or ‘appearance’, where there is an implied visual component”. This implies getting him to dispose of the geeky looking matching suit he wears and his braids. Victor’s concept of being Indian has a great deal to do with superficial looks, soon we as an audience see that Thomas is in contact with more established and older indigenous roots.

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Thomas’ relentless insights fill in as the main voice of the film as he continually chatters about traditions, family, ancestors, and principles. While Victor frowns at him during these stories, he ultimately caves in. We see proof of this when the two white men take his and Thomas’ seats. He stands up to the men, however, stands down swiftly, demonstrating that his ‘warrior’ persona, is only superficial. To reclaim their place on the bus and redeem himself, Victor and Thomas start to sing a pow-wow like song about John Wayne’s teeth. The indigenous identities, like Native Americans, in the challenging field of mainstream society, are usually presumed to be the stereotypical representation. In a way, this is combated by his song about John Wayne’s teeth, who is a very well-known portraying of cowboys.

Victor expresses numerous things that persuade us that he has pride in his Indian legacy. Then again, he states some disrespectful attitude towards his heritage. For instance, in the flash back scene where his dad asks him who his favorite Indian is, young Victor, says no one. He is clearly upset with the liquor addiction inside his family and likely all through the reservation. He desires to be proud of his legacy, yet the Indians in his community are a long way from the Indians of the past.

When Suzy confesses to Victor regarding how his father returned into the burning house searching for him, this is the final moment where he is forced to see the truth. Victor is then compelled to recognize the way that his father did love and care for him. Going into his dad’s trailer, he finds his wallet and seeing the image of his family. This photograph then strengthens these awakened feelings for his father. At that point, Victor takes out his blade and trims his hair. Prior in the film, he had disclosed to Thomas that an “Indian man is nothing without his hair”. Trimming his hair represents the surrendering of his old thoughts and beginning once again. Since he had constructed his whole self around the emotions that he had toward his father, he is currently left with nothing, this forces him to begin again.

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Essay on ‘Smoke Signals’ and the Path to Self-Revelation of Its Main Character. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 31, 2023, from
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