Literature, regardless of its accuracy to real life, taps a certain truth of humanity that promotes consciousness among readers. Since the emergence of acclaimed authors such as Mark Twain and John Steinback in previous centuries, literature has found a whole new realm in which it has tapped into the human condition that consequently made it palatable to be interpreted in other media of communication such as motion pictures.
In this sense, elements such as character, plot, and conflict constitute as effective tools for communicating the writer’s message to readers. Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer and LeAnne Howe’s Miko Kings, for instance, serve as reflections of how the established American Way of Life has brutally murdered the sanctity and richness of the Native American Culture.
To a certain extent, Indian Killer and Miko Kings can be considered as anti-American propaganda directed toward ruining the United States and the values that the country hold, but the broader context of both novels reveal the established democratic ideals have constituted genocide on the American-Indian morals and values. Generally, the backbone of author Sherman Alexie’s mystery Indian Killer is taken from the serial killer mystery stories of the pulp fiction era.
Alexie gives life to his story with characters that readers may come to love; chracters with personalities that people can relate to like an aging former police, a professor fixated on changing old social orders, a radio talk show host bent on maintaining the existing social norms, unemployed alcoholics, juvenile delinquents and a protagonist suffering from a multiple personality disorder who stands as the driving force behind the novel’s plot as he stands as the most obvious suspect in a mystery that remains unresolved.
Miko Kings meanwhile is an epic tale set in Indian Territory’s queen city of Ada, in Oklahoma, perfectly set during the baseball fever of 1907. However, the novel involves the science fiction element of time travel as it moves moves back and forth from 1907, during the baseball game between the Miko Kings and the Sharpshooters, and in 1969, during the Vietnam War, to present-day Ada. The story focuses on an Indian baseball team but brings a new understanding of the term “America’s favorite pastime.
For tribes in Indian Territory, baseball was an extension of a sport they’d been playing for centuries before their forced removal to Indian Territory. Miko Kings revolves around the lives of Hope Little Leader, a Choctaw pitcher for the baseball team called The Miko Kings, and Ezol Day, a postal service worker in an Indian Territory. Day travels forward in time to tell epic tales to the story’s present-day narrator.
As a result, the narrator embarks on trips to Indian boarding schools, such as the historical Hampton Normal School for Blacks and Indians located in the State of Virginia. While in the aforementioned school, the novel’s wonderful tale of love and romance between two people who are trapped in a world of prejudice and racism, unfolds. The timeless and seemingly impossible love romance between Justina Maurepas, a character who epitomizes an African-American educator and Hope Little Leader, the novel’s main character then sparks the conflict of the novel.
Despite Miko Kings’ incorporation of America’s favorite past time as well as the death of Indian Culture at the hands of white Americans in its plot, the compelling emotions infused in Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer gives more spice to its plot and narrative thereby giving it more appeal as a motion picture. The thought of a Native American suffering from a case of psychological disturbia, adopted by Caucasians primarily appears to be more considerate to a general audience, at least, as far as cinematic adaptations of novels are concerned.
However, to a lesser extent, the prejudice that lead to the speculation that Smith is the mysterious serial killer simply serves as a means to the plot’s end. Indian Killer’s story revolves around the troubled Smith, but as the story reaches its climaz, it is revealed that Smith is not actually the central figure of the story and, hence, is not the heart of the story. Rather the heart of the story is the human emotions that haunt characters, most especially the main character, throughout the novel. Eemotions that readers, and viewers for that matter, can also or experience everyday.
Smith’s struggle to keep up with his sanity, while immplicating a particular perspective of the American Indian experience, is not the main point of the entire novel. Instead, John Smith’s experiences as a Native American adopted by AmericAN whites have left him drenched in states of confusion and depression, from his very first day as part of a Caucasian family down to the last. The angle of the story pointing out to Smith’s emotions, in this sense, serve as the true focus of Alexie’s Indian Killer.
The devastating agonies that had John Smith experienced seem irreparable from the moment the novel began. His death, on the other hand, while it stands as a gloomy ending for a major chracter character, is in numerous ways, a form of clemency from his seemingly unyielding identity crisis. The relevance of John Smith as a character, in this sense, is to serve as the perfect portrait of the damage that has been done and remains to be inflicted on on him and the rest of the American-Indian society.
Much of this can be attributed to the fact that he broad context of cultures is a way of identifying a person or a group of people. Consciously or unconsciously everyone belongs to a particular sub-culture or what James W. Neuliep calls microculture which uniquely signifies him or her from the main culture (Neuliep, 1999). For instance, the American culture is divided in to different microcultures considering that the United States is comprised of diverse groups of people. James W. Neuliep (1999) defines microculture as a set of common values, beliefs, and behaviour that defines a group of people.
The aforementioned values, beliefs, and behaviour also integrate shared histories as well as verbal and non-verbal language systems that are similar to, but methodically differing from the dominant cultural norms. Given the tragic inner conflicts experienced by Smith in Indian Killer, Sherman Alexie’s disturbing, yet, touching piece is more palatable as a motion picture. Mainly because John Smith’s struggle to seek his true identity serves as a reflection of how certain groups of people throughout history have have suffered from lack of identity together with prejudice and injustice.
In a more contemporary sense, Smith’s search for his true identity resembles how minority groups such as gays, lesbians, and to a lesser extent, women continue to find equality and acceptance in a prejudiced society. Likewise, the plot and story of the novel takes its genre of mystery to a more realistic field. It is a haunted novel that venture beyond the pages of a book to become a compelling drama about a man’s search for his inner self.
Yes, John Smith suffers from the complications of a cross-cultural adaptation; yes Smith, likewise endures a prejudiced society who does not fully accept his cultural heritage. But Smith Furthermore, Smith’s experiences brings awareness over a certain human emotion that inclines humanity’s unquenching thirst to achieve in life. As much as the plot of the novel involves mysterious murders that go often unresolved, the tragic experiences of John Smith dominates the entire novel with its brutal honesty as well as its ability to tap and engage every person regardless of race, gender, and socio-economic status.
As much as novels such as Indian Killer contains highlights, a film adaptation must also be expected to have crucialt sceneswherein the highly emotional plot and story of the movie are itensified. In this sense, John Smith’s struggles and experiences highlight the canserve as the film’s higlights; particularly, Smith’s realization of his true cultural heritage that prompted him to seek for his true identity can serve as one of the highlight scenes.
Smith’s death, meanwhiule can serve as the climax for the novel’s movie adaptation. Because, as previously mentioned, Smith’s demise means that he has finally been rid of the chains of torment that had him bound throughout his life. It means that he would no longer be tormented by the thought that the culture he is supposed to be identified with, his identity has been destroyed and relinquished by adoption and can no longer be regained by any means necessary.
Considering that the novel’s central theme and character are culturally specific, there should also be a meticulous process in picking the actors who will be cast for the film adaptation of the Indian Killer. A notable actor with who can faithfully fulfill the role of John Smith is Lou Diamond Philips, the actor’s distinct physical features that partly has cherokee traces immediately makes him believable as John Smith. Likewise, his diverse acting ability can also fulfill the mixed emotions and character’s lust to find his true identity.
As much as the genre of mystery has become established in both the realms of motion picture and literature, Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer moves the genre a little deeper by tapping into a vital element of the human existence: emotion and experience. The elements of plot, chracter, narrative, and conflict touch grasps upon readers’ fears, traumas, hopes, and dreams. Through an emphasis on the events that occurred in the life of John Smith, author Sherman Alexie has set the character as a portrait of a broad field of human emotions.