In Flight Patterns, Alexie uses fiction elements such as characters, plot, and tone to communicate the idea that due to racism Americans often misjudge others, rather than basing their judgments on character. The main character, William, is a healthy, ritualistic Spokane Indian living in Seattle, Washington who knows a wide variety of American trivia. He has a loving wife and daughter along with a good sense of humor. He is a businessman that loves his job, but hates to leave his family, travels often but has a fear of flying, and is always a victim of prejudice, yet is guilty of doing so to others.
Alexie places an emphasis on William’s interest in American culture to show his want to be an American. William knows American trivia because he felt it important to know in order to feel like a true American. Fekadu is the taxi driver who picks William up from his house to take him to the airport. At first glance, William judges him to be “a black man with a violent history” because of a long scar on Fekadu’s neck. However, as the ride continues William learns that Fekadu studied physics at Oxford and became a jet-fighter pilot in Ethiopia until one day he fled the country without telling anyone his plans, including his family.
He was courageous for leaving, yet a coward for leaving, as well. William and Fekadu are able to relate with one another because they have both faced similar problems dealing with pain, hope, fear, family, and race. William hates to leave his family to go on business trips and his family hates when he leaves. It pains William to do so because he is always afraid something bad might happen to them while he is gone. Fekadu feels the same pain and fear for having to leave his family behind when he fled Ethiopia. Alexie uses William and Fekadu as voices for non-white people living in America and the everyday trials they experience.
He brings attention to the prejudice and discrimination they face from white Americans. When William first meets Fekadu he catches himself judging Fekadu based on his race. It is a natural instinct for Americans to do so. According to Fekadu, “ The contradictions are the story, yes? ” All throughout Flight Patterns, there are contradictions in everything. These contradictions add to the tone; they add irony, humor, and mockery. After 9/11, William would look around at the airports and on the planes for “suspicious brown guys”, yet other people would look at him and mistake him for one.
He would, also, look around for “big white guys” for protection; however, he would never invite them to his home. Another example of irony is added to the story when William tells Fekadu of a time when a man yelled at him to go back to his own country, mistaking him for a foreigner rather than an Indian. William laughed and yelled back, “You first! ” This is an example of William’s sense of humor and ability to recognize irony. It is, also, an example of how some Americans are quick to judge others based on their skin color.