The narrator is a homeless individual of an Indian origin. He is very much aware of his race, homeless status and personality traits which he vividly describes throughout the story. At one time, he says, ‘Im not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless, because it’s my secret story and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white (Alexie 438). Besides, he knows that as an Indian, he borrows heavily from their cultural traditions. He says that just like his other Indian compatriots, he is ‘a great storyteller, mythmaker and liar’ (439). Moreover, Jackson Jackson is a very sophisticated man. He industriously gets money from different sources but ends up extravagantly spending the whole of it on alcohol, food and his homeless colleagues. For him as a homeless person, life is not comfortable because they keep on wandering from street to street since ‘One day you have a home and the next you don’t (Alexie 8). This is what they go through (Baumohl 73)
Even if the setting of the Shawl is based in Boston; the readers are exposed to a lot of cultural practices and values of the ‘Third and Final Continent.’ The story gives an account of the determination of people to traverse across the world in the pursuit of fortunes. The narrator confirms this when he says, ‘In a few years he will graduate and pave his own way, alone and unprotected… I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home.’ Such a story definitely has to discuss different cultures.
Social interactions are necessary for the survival of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. For instance, Mala has to cope up with strangers such as the 103-year-old Mrs. Croft despite their differences. This situation enables the story to incorporate the elements of cultural integration. This is evidenced in the manner these characters endure one another and reconcile their differences; express love; be compatible, and harmoniously learn to live together regardless of all the odds.
Baumohl, Jim (editor). Homelessness in America. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 2007. Print.