Sherman Alexie’s “Do You Know Where I Am” Essay

Sherman Alexie’s short fictional story, “Do You Know Where I Am,” begins with a Native American narrator named David, and he tracks his relationship with his wife, Sharon, until her untimely death at the end. All was peachy with this couple until they happened to stumble upon a black cat that an elderly couple had lost some time ago. Sharon prodded David to rescue the cat, and when he did, she proceeded to dig through the dumpster to find the newspaper which housed this specific lost cat ad.

Upon returning the cat to the couple, David immediately took credit for everything Sharon had just done which included: finding the cat, deciding to rescue it, and digging out the old newspaper ad to find out the cat’s owners as well. Sharon could not believe what her boyfriend had just done, and the couple therefore took a break for a while, only to get married and live happy lives until Sharon’s death.

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Based on this short summation of Alexie’s story, one would not believe that the cat, a superficially minor character in this piece, would play a crucial role. This cat, however, acts as the main focus of Sharon and David’s flawless relationship, and becomes the main evil coming between these lovers.

In many cultures around the world, the color black is viewed as foreboding or menacing. It is viewed this way because the heavens are usually viewed as a light, peaceful place, and black, being the opposite of this connotation, immediately lends itself to be viewed as evil. The cat initially seems harmless, and does not harm his rescuer David, but Alexie uses the cat’s dark hue to illustrate the foreboding hardship for the couple. Sharon and David’s relationship would not be the same had the cat not come between them and tainted it. Although the couple ends up living a happy life, Sharon is constantly keeping David on pins and needles by bringing up his infamous lie. David’s desire to be a hero momentarily destroyed his relationship, all because of the cat. When the couple first stumbled upon the cat, Alexie states that David did not want to rescue the cat, until Sharon made him retrieve it from the shrubs. This hesitation by David is most likely the cause of the black hue of the cat. Alexie adds this reluctance to the plot to highlight the point that the lost black cat has some kind of impending danger connected to it. David somehow can feel this danger, and therefore attempts to avoid it. The black color of the lost cat is used by Alexie to show and highlight the cat’s ominous being, and is therefore a main depiction of the couple’s hardships.

The cat’s black color is also used by Alexie to symbolize the single “black spot” on David’s record as seen by Sharon. Up until the couple stumbled upon this wicked cat, David character was untarnished. He and Sharon were the picture-perfect couple, and believed one another to be their true soul mate. Once interacting with this menacing black cat however, David’s record obtained a blemish. The cat brought out David’s desire to be seen as a hero in Sharon’s eyes, even though she already viewed him as such. David desired to solidify his superior status with Sharon, and instead did the opposite. After taking some time off, the couple eventually got back together and got married, but David was never seen the same way in Sharon’s eyes. The black color of the cat made David’s aura a bit darker, making it less like that of a Sharon’s previous view. Unfortunately, when Sharon dies at the end of the short story, she dies carrying a tarnished image of her true love David, all because of the dark symbolism of that lost black cat.

The color black can also be seen as the color of death. The cat’s black shade therefore, can be linked to Sharon’s death in many ways. As discussed earlier, Sharon, because of the ominous cat and her husband’s selfish actions, died with a skewed perception of who her husband really was. Sharon could not seem to overlook the blemish on David’s record, and it ultimately ended up haunting this innocent woman all the way until her passing. The color black can also be linked to Sharon’s death because it encouraged her husband to lie not once, but twice. At the end of the story, when Sharon is on her death bed, David tells her that he would do anything to turn back time.

Sharon inquires if this is actually the truth, and David, as the narrator of the story, states that it almost was. Almost being the truth is evidence of lying. David lied about wanting to go back in time because inside he knew that going back in time meant encountering the lost black cat once again. This meant encountering the lost black cat that momentarily destroyed his relationship and permanently damaged his image as seen through his lover’s eyes. This cat’s symbolic black hue encouraged a man’s lying, destroyed his previously untainted image in his relationship, and added to the agony of his wife’s untimely death. Because of the many symbols attached to this initially overlooked character, and its representation as the challenges faced by this Native American couple, the lost black cat should be viewed as the main focus of the short story instead of David or Sharon.

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