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The After-Effects Of Adversity

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Regardless of adversity in life, human resilience always prevails. There There, a Political History novel, written by Tommy Orange is a well-paced multigenerational tale about self-identity, loss, reliance and the excellent writing which interweaves sadness into the historical backdrop of a country and its people. There There contains twelve different characters, each one has a different story which leads up to the trip of the famous Oakland Powwow in which the Native community joins together to celebrate their culture. Jacquie Red Feather is finally sober after dealing with alcohol problems. She attempts to regain her past life. Dene Oxendene’s uncle passes away and as a result, comes to work at the Powwow. Tony Loneman, born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, faces many social issues and struggles to find his own identity. These three characters have adversity in common. Although characters like Tony Loneman, Jacquie Red-Feather, and Dene Oxendene experience misfortune e.g. substance abuse, mental illness, broken families, and violence, they eventually take action to cope with these, even if their actions are not effective.

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One of the many characters in this novel who faces adversity is Tony Loneman. Tony Loneman was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome because his mother was an alcoholic. He calls his FAS “the Drome”. Tony has been lonely and excluded throughout his life because of his peculiar face, it is even in his name LONEman. He even considers himself a beast. Tony also struggles with his cultural and personal identity because “the Drome” is in the way. In the novel, Tony explains “the Drome”, by saying, “people look at me then look away when they see it, I see them see me. That’s the Drome too. My power and curse. The Drome is my mom and why she drank, it’s the way history lands on a face, and all the ways I made it so far despite how it has fucked with me since the day I found it there on the TV, staring back at me like a fucking villain” (Orange 16). In this quote we see Tony explaining how his FAS has affected his life. Tony hates his FAS and believes it ruins his life, which it does, especially what led up to his syndrome. Getting a disease from a mother can be challenging. His mother knew the consequences, yet still became an alcoholic. Since Tony has no parental figures, his grandma Maxine takes care of him. Tony has been selling weed since he was thirteen. He gives most of the cash he makes to Maxine. To cope with all this adversity, Tony decides to take a crazy action. Because of his drug-selling path he eventually meets Octavio and becomes a part of his plan to rob the Big Oakland Powwow. This action suggests that Tony loves his culture but also feels disconnected from it, so the Powwow robbery is a way for Tony to retaliate for not being accepted. Before the Powwow, Octavio requests Tony to buy bullets and come wearing his regalia so that he blends in. At this point in the novel, Tony feels very lonely and as he is dying, in the end, after being shot in the robbery, he feels like he has been freed.

Another character in this novel who faced life-changing challenges is Jacquie Red-Feather. Like Tony Loneman, alcohol plays a role in Jacquie Red-Feather’s life. Jacquie is first introduced as an eighteen-year-old girl going to Alcatraz with her family. While on the trip she meets an older boy named Harvey, who later assaults Jacquie making her pregnant. Jacquie gives birth to the child but puts it up for adoption. These hard times affect her future, specifically her life with alcohol abuse. The next time we see Jacquie is when she is in her sixties and is eleven days sober. She struggles to keep up her sobriety, so she attends a community conference on substance abuse and suicide prevention, specifically for Natives. In the novel, Jacquie states, “Jacquie wanted to go to them. She wanted a drink. She wanted to drink. She needed a meeting. Earlier she’d seen that the AA meeting for the conference would be on the second floor at seven-thirty every night… hoped to find meaning in their careers…” (Orange 107). Although Jacquie went to these conferences to help with her alcohol addiction, she still had the urge to have it, which is what most alcoholics feel. Overcoming an addiction is one of the hardest things a person can do. With everything going on, Jacquie decides to give her three grandsons to her half-sister Opal to raise because her second daughter Jamie recently committed suicide. She can’t even trust herself to raise children. She has to give up the people she loves because of alcoholism which isn’t necessarily her fault. Therefore to cope with her alcoholism, she decides to go to a conference for her struggle. Tony’s action was to go against his own culture and Jacquie’s is to continue her sobriety.

Finally, one more character who suffers misfortune is Dene Oxendene. From the start of his chapter, the reader finds out that he is missing a parental figure, a father. Dene is very depressed as well, he even contemplates suicide. Besides his depression, one of Dene’s passion is telling stories. In the novel, Dene gets a grant to record stories from Native people in Oakland, which he will make into a documentary. During his presentation in front of the board Dene mentions, “We haven’t seen the Urban Indian story. What we’ve seen is full of the kinds of stereotypes… it’s too sad… because of the way it’s been portrayed, it looks pathetic… the whole picture is not pathetic… stories that you come across are not pathetic… that’s part of what I’m bringing to the project…” (Orange 40). In this quote Dene is stating that there isn’t that much information on his community and wants to change that, he wants people to know the correct facts of his culture and not just the stereotypes presented. After getting the grant for the documentary, unfortunately, his uncle and father figure dies. This sad event encourages Dene to go even further with his project and represent the Native community. Dene has always felt disconnected from the Native community, but by making this documentary he feels more connected to the culture. Therefore to cope with his lack of self-identity and inspiration from his dead uncle, he decides to create this documentary.

In spite of the fact that characters like Tony Loneman, Jacquie Red-Feather, and Dene Oxendene experience setbacks like substance misuse, psychological maladjustment, broken families, and violence they positively move to overcome and adapt to these sufferings, successfully or not. A big theme in this novel is resilience. All the characters including Tony, Jacquie, and Dene are affected by something or someone. In Tony’s case, he is affected by his FAS. Though not his fault, it has been a part of him his whole life. As for Jacquie, she relied on alcohol but became sober and attended the conferences. For Dene, his reliance was his uncle, to stay alive and care for him, instead of disappearing like his father. Adversity is a challenging thing to go through, and no one should ever face these types of challenges, but these characters did and did something about it.

07 September 2020

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