You will redeem what I have pawned

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The tale What I Pawn, You Shall Redeem follows the adventures of Jackson Jackson, a homeless Indian man. The plot centers around the main character's fulfillment of a compelling goal: reclaiming his grandmother's regalia, which had been pawned for a thousand dollars. The author's decisions shed light on the main character's contradictory dispositions. An examination of Jackson Jackson and his journey provides a glimpse into the life of a man beleaguered by intellectual and emotional difficulties.

To begin with, Jackson Jackson is depicted as a generous person. Nonetheless, his generosity borders on the rash. Jackson’s generosity is manifested when he wins a hundred dollars and commits to share it with Mary. Despite Mary’s misgivings about the initiative, Jackson infers that the “it’s tribal. It’s an Indian thing. When you win, you’re supposed to share with your family” (Alexie). He is also generous with the little that he has when he decides to share his limited funds with the Indians inside the bar by agreeing to buy each one of them five drinks (Alexie). On his encounter with Aleut, Jackson takes it upon himself to bear the cost of the food that they consume at the Big Kitchen diner. Noting his noble act, the waitress addresses his noble act by posing “aren’t you the generous one” (Alexie).

Still, his generosity is also a reflection of the character’s impetuousness. Despite the fact that he needed money urgently to facilitate the acquisition of his grandmother’s regalia, his initiative is constantly derailed by his impetuous generosity. He insists on giving Mary a cut from the money won in the tickets regardless of the fact that he would need over 900 dollars the next day to acquire his grandmother’s regalia (Alexis). Additionally, he tips the waitress fifteen percent of the total costs he bears from the drinks with his friends. These two features of his character are contradictory and a mark of mental instability.

Jackson is a responsible character. The grandmother’s property at the pawn shop help to define this element of his character. His feelings of obligation inspire initiative and ingenuity in him as he seeks to retrieve the item from the pawnshop (Weinberger, 2003). The grandmother’s regalia in the story is very importance as it provides the framework through which his responsible, and equally irresponsible, character is inferred. As a responsible character, Jackson commits to retrieving his grandmother’s regalia at all cost. When Officer Williams suggests that Jackson commit his case to the police to allow for the retrieval of his property, he infers that “that’s not fair. The pawnbroker didn’t know it was stolen. And, besides, I’m on a mission here. I want to be a hero, you know? I want to win it back, like a knight.” (Alexie). Principally, the statement alludes to his commitment to going all the way in securing a regalia that was previously owned by his family and comprises a heritage of the family. Additionally, despite the loss of all his friends, Jackson continues to pursue his goal relentlessly. His sense of responsibility further takes him to the Real Change organization. On meeting the big boss, he reiterates his commitment to the acquisition of his grandmother’s regalia. When he is extended the police option, he determines that “I don’t want to do that. It’s a quest now. I need to win it back by myself” (Alexie). Still, he shows a reckless inclination when he allows his love for alcohol to threaten the sustainability of his goal. He constantly loses money and has to depend on handouts to sustain the possible manifestation of his dream.

Despite the several challenges to his quest, Jackson succeeds in achieving his dream. He is allowed the regalia by the pawnshop owner. The culmination is surprising since Jackson irresponsibly spent his money in the knowledge that he need to save more to purchase the regalia from the pawnbroker. However, the initiative is not a reflection of his endurance and commitment but rather the generosity of those around him (Ramlochan, 2012). The characters around him only serve to reinforce Jackson’s irresponsibility. Their response to his quest is predicated on pity rather than respect for his desires. For instance, Officer Williams indicates that “I’m giving it to you because I believe in what you believe. I’m hoping, and I don’t know why I’m hoping it, but I hope you can turn thirty bucks into a thousand somehow” (Alexie). The cop is driven by sympathy rather than initiative when he chooses to extend some money to Jackson. The Aleuts further serve the purpose of reflecting on Jackson’s illusions. The waitress, Mary and the Indians at the bar act to display Jackson’s irrationality and an inability to control his desires.

Conclusively, Jackson provides a character who is beleaguered by psychological and emotional challenges. He is continuously reckless with money. Additionally, he partakes in the deliberate and incessant consumption of alcohol which threatens to derail his ability to secure back his grandmother’s regalia from his mother. The other characters in the novel act as mirrors through which Jackson’s instability can be inferred.


Alexie, S. (2003). What You Will Pawn, I will Redeem. The New Yorker. Retrieved from

Ramlochan, S. (2012). “Story Sundays: “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie. Novel Niche. Retrieved from

Weinberger, E. (2003). Off the Reservation. The New York Times. Retrieved from

October 20, 2022

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