However, the bonds of family cannot be destroyed. They are passed on from one generation to the next. Although Victor has no close contact with him, the father’s death is “a genetic pain” (Alexie, 7). The title suggests that, as Victor travels to Phoenix and claims the remains of his father, the old man lives on in his son. Victor experiences a sense of closure as he “searched his mind for memories of his father, found the good ones, found a few bad ones, added it all up, and smiled” (Alexie, 14).
His bond with his father is strengthened. This theme of rebirth is emphasized towards the conclusion of the story, when Thomas states his intention of scattering Victor’s father’s ashes in Spokane Falls and his certainty that “He will rise, Victor, he will rise” (Alexie, 17). As the new offspring rises from the ashes of the old Phoenix, Victor, the son, rises from the ashes of his father. The ashes constitute another powerful symbol in the story. They are related to the myth of the Phoenix above, in which the ashes of the predecessor are the raw material for the rebirth of the progeny.
In addition to this, the ashes also stand for the past. Both Victor and his father run away from their past. The father “wants to run and hide” (Alexie, 14). The father runs away from the reservation to Arizona, while Victor metaphorically runs away from his father. The ashes symbolize connection. The ashes form the bridge which connects Victor to his past and to his father. By accepting the ashes, Victor accepts his father and opens his heart to the enduring legacy of his parent in his life.
The ashes stand for family bonds. The father-son relationship which is lost by Victor is reclaimed by him through the ashes. The ashes also symbolize the bond of kinship between Victor and Thomas. Victor is surprised when Thomas says, “Yeah, I remember your Dad” (Alexie, 14). He learns that Thomas, his cousin, shared a unique relationship with his father. It is Victor’s father who finds the thirteen year old Thomas stranded far from home in Spokane and takes care of the boy.
The father secures an assurance from Thomas that he will look after Victor. The father thus becomes a bridge between the two cousins. Thomas and his uncle share a special bond founded on their concern for Victor. Thomas reaffirms this commitment when he tells Victor, “I came because of your father (Alexie, 14). The ashes are not only a bridge between Victor and his father, but also between Victor and Thomas. Victor acknowledges his enduring bond of kinship with his cousin by giving him “the cardboard box which contained half of his father” (Alexie, 17).
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