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Irony And Sarcasm In The Works Of Sherman Alexie

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Humour is a very distinctive feature in Native American contemporary writings. Humour can be distinguished as the Native American seriousness, naturalness and the capacity to state and feel the reality of things in their life. Humour is occasionally the best weapon of defense for the indigenous literary characters. In addition, it is a helpful way to handle the issues of injustice, racism, and discrimination that they confronted. So, humour is a rather popular style which the contemporary Native American writers take into consideration in their works. Currently, Sherman Alexie is the best humourist in Indian American literature.

What characterizes Sherman Alexie most is his particular type of humour that pervades his work with irony and sarcasm. His occasional performance of a stand – up comedy is the proof that he is really talented. Humour and his way of telling stories together make Alexie’s works well read by the readers as a result of his way of humour and storytelling altogether.

According to Alexie humour is the powerful and positive force in the world. Humour is the only way that makes humans to laugh in sad situations. For Alexie laughing is the symbol of health. Healthy people are laughing but if they do not laugh it means they are in a special health problem. In an interview with Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art Alexie reveals his attitude about humour:

It’s not desperate. That’s one of the real cultural gaps – Indians are funny. It’s just funny. Humor is the most powerful force in the world. It’s a positive force. Being able to laugh at sad things is a sign of health. If somebody is not laughing, that’s when they’re in trouble. (Alexie, 1996: 188)

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Alexie refuses to write about sacred things as he affirmed: ‘I don’t write about the sacred,’ (Alexie, 1996: 187) since he designates more expected how Indians live in the modern world. Accordingly, in his works, humour is identically essential, because he habitually writes about things that are not funny. He has a rather special penchant to describe negative things in his writings in the ridiculous and occasionally darkest detail. This is perhaps perceptible in Alexie’s Indian Killer, the thriller is hateful, violent and angry that he wrote so that to demonstrate another powerful novel with the respect to humour (Trtílková, 2013: 13-20).

Humour is Alexie’s green card in his writings, as he responded in an interview with Nelson, ‘Humour is my green card’ (Nelson, 2010: 7) The most fundamental characteristic of Alexie is humour. In the face of awful conditions humour is the only weapon for Alexie in both first and second collections of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993) and The Toughest Indian in the World (2000). The combination of both the trenchant irony and laughter often produces the use of humour or dark humour, which are directed to illogical predication upon such problems as alcoholism, unemployment, drug abuse, poverty, the uncertain future, diabetes, and windswept cultural traditions, in Alexie’s works.

Alexie uses such techniques as satire, parody, mockery, farce, and exaggeration, in order to form dark humour and irony. In addition, this is an impressive strategy to demonstrate historical trauma and present circumstances of discrimination which is shaped by white hegemony and carry struggles produced by assimilation. Such edgy, disruptive, even liberating humour also promotes self-actualization and social action, providing a means of survival amid often-bewildering and absurd conditions (Jeff Berglund, 2010: 25). In addition to this kind of tragicomic laughter, Alexie discloses the dominant culture’s empty promises and untruthful ideologies by way of beginning a conversation with readers on problematic issues and stereotypes.

The tragicomic technique was used by American dark humourists from 1950s to 1970s. They used this technique as an answer to a supposed, confusing state of absurdity shaped by worlds of post-atomic, postmodern, and post-Holocaust. The novelist-satirist has to find a way of his own to convey the message. So, Alexie finds dark humour to uncover the illogicality of cultural discrimination, the community fragmentation, and a loss of rituals and myths.

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Irony And Sarcasm In The Works Of Sherman Alexie. (2021, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Irony And Sarcasm In The Works Of Sherman Alexie.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2021,
Irony And Sarcasm In The Works Of Sherman Alexie. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
Irony And Sarcasm In The Works Of Sherman Alexie [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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