Sherman Alexie's novel, "Reservation Blues," depicts the struggles of Native Americans living on a reservation. Although the story focuses on the lives of a group of teenagers in a rock band, the novel still shows the hardships and setbacks of all the people living on the reservation. Because of the colonization and teachings of white Americans, the Native Americans create a belief that the white man's way of living is better than their own traditions. By doing so, the Spokane Indians in the novel try to conform to the ways of white culture in order to find a sense of identity and gratification. However, by trying to adopt the characteristics of the white American culture, the characters are oppressed by the idea that whites are superior, internalize the issue of trying to be white, and hurt themselves even more in the process.
The lifestyles of Victor and Samuel strongly portray the influences of white culture in their lives. The novel reveals the nature of the characters in how they want to be like the successful white Americans. The novel describes Victor as "the reservation John Travolta " because he wears only silk shirts and polyester pants," and although they were tattered and barely held to his body, he still wears them everyday" (12). He wants to be like the rock stars and celebrities when he buys his clothes in 1979, the peak of the disco era. John Travolta was one of the biggest stars at that time; so by emulating his style of clothing, Victor feels that he can be popular and cool by fitting in with the societal norms of American culture. By showing them the glory and fame of pop culture, Victor tries to imitate that image and falls under the trap of what he thinks will provide him gratification in superficial appearance. By doing so, he submits to the white American culture and unknowingly oppresses himself to the idea that whites are superior to Indians. This same notion also affects the other generations of Indians living on the reservation.