After Junior hits Mr. P with his textbook, Mr. P challenges Junior’s expectations by apologizing to him. Mr. P admits that he has contributed to the racism that has hindered Indians on the reservation from leading happy or successful lives. But, despite his confession about being an abusive teacher in days gone by, Mr. P proves to be a good teacher for Junior. He encourages him to make what will be the most important decision of his young life—the decision to leave the Spokane Indian Reservation and go to school in Reardan. Surprise is an effective teaching tool. Mr. P surprises Junior by showing up at his out of the blue, apologizing, and, perhaps most importantly, by revealing things about Mary that Junior never knew. If living on the Spokane Reservation and attending Wellpinit was enough to keep Mary from pursuing her goal of becoming a writer, Mr. P warns, the same things can keep Junior from achieving his goals. Mr. P also warns Junior about his friendship with Rowdy, but Junior resists Mr. P’s warning. Junior is either unwilling to see Rowdy as a bad influence, or unwilling to give up on Rowdy despite Rowdy’s shortcomings.
The divisions that separate Indians from white society are often external, like the border of the Spokane Reservation, but, just as often, these divisions are internal, psychological boundaries. When Junior’s mom and dad simultaneously agree that white people have the most hope, their response is a clear indication of how Indians on the reservation are constantly reminded of their racial identity, of the fact that they are not white, that Indians and white people have been separated. It doesn’t occur to Junior’s parents that Junior might want to transfer to a better, rather than a worse, high school because the only better schools are white schools. In this section, readers are also introduced to the rampant alcoholism on the Spokane Reservation. Junior’s parents, though they do their best to support Junior, are alcoholics. Even alcoholics have gradations. To Junior’s mind, Junior’s Dad is a better drunk than Rowdy’s because Junior’s Dad is never physically violent. Like Junior’s parents, even background, or secondary, characters like Mr. P tend to be morally ambiguous—to have a mixture of both good and bad traits. This makes them complex and, arguably, more realistic.