Tayo, the protagonist, a half-breed whose mother was a disgrace to the community and whose father was a white man who worked on the highway. After he is orphaned, he is taken in by his aunt, uncles, and grandmother and is reared with his cousin Rocky. Tayo is reminded constantly of his separate status, of his not really belonging. Surviving the war in the Pacific, Tayo returns to the United States, first to a veterans’ hospital and finally to the reservation to embark on his journey of healing.
Rocky, Tayo’s all-American cousin. A high school football star, he has plans for college. His life will demonstrate to white people that Indians are not unambitious failures. First, though, he will prove himself—and his patriotism—by serving in the war. Alongside Tayo, he fights the Japanese in the Philippines, only to die in the jungle rain.
Auntie, a strict Catholic who has capitulated to the dominant Western culture. She passes those same values to her son, Rocky. Her sister, an alcoholic who slept with white men and preferred the bars of Gallup to the reservation, left Tayo to remind her of the family’s shame. Auntie never allows Tayo to forget his mother’s disgrace and seems even more unforgiving when Tayo returns from the war and her son does not.
Josiah, Auntie’s brother and Tayo’s uncle, an important presence in...
(The entire section is 530 words.)