The story “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” takes place in the city of Seattle where a homeless Native American, Jackson Jackson, embarks on a journey not to steal, but to earn money to recover his grandmother’s regalia. He goes through many obstacles to obtain something that has no price tag to him. Although he does what he can to retrieve the dress, his desire for alcohol gets the best of him. Through the many obstacles he faces, this story shows the passion and motivation that, even without a job or money, he demonstrates to others that his grandmother’s dress is more important than taking care of himself. Sherman Alexie’s story shows how Jackson’s adventure to pay for something that is far out of his reach brings many emotions and shows that you cannot replace an item that is special to you with money.
Jackson left the impression that he cares for his family’s antiques and what was once his grandmother’s. His quest is roughly a twenty-four-hour period in search for money to make the purchase at the pawn shop. Every time he gains some money he spends it not only on himself, but on his friends. It shows in the story just how the real world works. We all get so caught up in ourselves and what we want/need more than the outlook of others. He gains some money and blows it on himself just as all humans. We become greedy, selfish, and forget why we are truly here on earth. We, as Jackson, give into our flesh and see pleasure in the present and not the future.
Jackson gives an outlook on how he takes what is truly special to him seriously. Although he gets distracted many times, he gets what he has worked for in the end. Most times the goals we try to achieve may not come in the period in which we desire them. We may have to jump through many obstacles to obtain what it is that we truly are striving for. The process that we may have to go through most times will teach us more. It may also make things become more apparent to us. We become more passionate, or have one of those moments that are more like a reality check. It illuminates an aspect that God can help us overcome any obstacle. It also shows the truth about our human nature that we are not perfect and in his quest, he takes many wrong turns, but ultimately gets back on track. It is not how you start the quest, but how you finish. God allows us to go through many obstacles. He gives and takes away, “One day you have a home and the next you don’t” (34). God wants to help us grow mentally and physically, but to also remember that he comes first. We also need to become selfless in our outlook on those in need.
The theme of this story is more than just earning money to get back his grandmother’s regalia. It not only shows what Jackson’s priorities are, but also the priorities of the pawn shop owner and ours. So many people look at their needs before doing what is morally right, “I cannot afford to do the right thing. I paid a thousand dollars for this. I cannot just give away a thousand dollars” (35). Even though the pawnbroker bought it, he realizes how much the regalia means to Jackson. He wants Jackson to have to work toward what he wants from him, maybe to gain some self-worth, or identity, or simply because you cannot get something for free without at some point paying a price. He looks at the price tag value of the dress and as a business man is overlooking what is precious to Jackson, covering his own interests. These themes relate to our greed, selfishness, and the act of me, myself, and I approach. We are all human and our selfish nature overcomes us more than we think. Some people struggle with it more than others and then there are those who are in denial about their lack of putting others first and can put a price tag on everything, regardless the cost. Jackson gets distracted about how the pawnshop owner only saw dollar signs in front of him. Jackson realizes he is weak in his flesh and struggles to help himself and goes to the shop hoping for a lower price. He knows that in his present condition he will not be able to pay what the owner is asking for the dress but he feels it is worth the effort to go back. He chooses not to give up, knowing the sentimental value of the dress, and that is the driving force of him going back and trying again. This example shows persistence pays off and is worth the effort to always hope for the best. Even during every situation never give up to early, and cling to hope as Jackson did.
We all have a voice regardless of our status, or what material things we have or do not have. When we make the effort to fight for what we believe in, we can walk away rejoicing that we have become victorious, thanking people for their generosity, and the gratitude that comes from knowing that our efforts are worth it. Jackson did not have to feel alone or abandoned in this situation. God is there to fight our battles for us and will help us along the way. Sentimental value is not in the time they last, but in the intensity with which they occur or the memory attached. Those men and women in this world that give because they feel led to are the ones who are remembered. “I can dream,” (39) and exactly that is what inspire men these days to do what is right. Jackson experienced that intensity and got to rejoice in the memory that was fastened and in the end, dancing in the street was the result. He rejoiced in his efforts.