Junior’s remark to Penelope—that it feels good to help people—is a window to the compassion at the core of Junior’s character. Because Junior’s compassion and resilience underscore much of the hardship, abuse, and tragedy in the novel, readers may still see The Absolutely True-Diary of a Part-Time Indian as an inspiring and uplifting story. Junior’s remark about helping others at the end of the “Halloween” chapter is especially moving because it is tinged with irony. Junior has not succeeded in collecting money—in helping others—at all. Penelope is adding Junior’s name to the donation out of pity. But Junior is optimistic enough that imagining the possibility of helping others temporarily lifts his spirits. Then he plunges into loneliness. Neither Junior nor the reader can know for sure whether Rowdy was one of Junior’s attackers, but the fact that Junior suspects Rowdy already begins to emphasize Junior’s loneliness on the reservation. In so many ways, Reardan is the polar opposite of Wellpinit, but the two towns have Junior’s loneliness in common. Gordy, who has been rejected by many of the other students at Reardan for being a nerd, is even reluctant to identify with Junior.

While other students at Reardan may find their physics tests to be the hardest challenge of the school day, for Junior, the hardest challenge is sometimes just getting home from school. The twenty-two mile walk would have taken him around eight hours. Though there is no doubt Junior’s decision to go to Reardan has had a major impact on his life, it is worth considering whether he he exaggerates the effect it might have had on Mary. Junior’s own vanity and his genuine love for Mary colors his opinion of her decisions. It is generous to see Mary’s overnight wedding to a Montana poker player as courageous, but her decision to get married and run away to Montana might also be seen as rushed, reckless, or foolish. Junior’s optimism borders on naiveté, but it is possible that this naiveté, or blind optimism, is exactly the secret to Junior’s success. He chooses to see his sister’s decision in the most positive light, and he tries to imitate her courage by asking Gordy point blank to be his friend. This small step helps Junior rediscover joy and begin to feel he belongs in Reardan.