(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the shadow of Claremore Mound, Oklahoma, a group of young people, all of whom are of mixed white and Cherokee ancestry, are having a frolicsome picnic one night in 1915. They quarrel among themselves, at first in a harmless fashion but later in a serious one. They verbally torment one another with insults and references to one another’s personality flaws. Viney Jones, who was a schoolteacher, tells of keeping Hutch Moree, an oil hand, after school for his stuttering. Bee Newcomb is rightly accused of being a prostitute. Other insults are exchanged. Noises made by another person are then heard in the night. Directly, Old Man Talbert appears and informs the youth that he is collecting arrowheads, relics from the past with which he hopes to reestablish his own identity as an Indian, as well as to reestablish that of the part-Indians around him such as the members of the group. Talbert goes mad, recalling the long-gone greatness of the Cherokee and Osage Indians who once lived and fought on this very scene.

Some twelve years later, in the Rogers County Jail, Bee is hired by the sheriff to trick Art Osburn into confessing that he murdered his wife, a white woman much older than he with children of her own. The sheriff places Bee in the cell with Art, where she lies by claiming that she was put in jail for being drunk. She produces whiskey to help loosen Art’s tongue. Shortly, thinking no one can hear what he says, Art confesses that he murdered his wife and that she did not drown as he claims. Art then discovers a tape recorder hidden in the cell by the sheriff, but it is too late. He attacks Bee, who is barely saved from his wrath. The sheriff then pays her for deceiving her fellow Indian.

In 1931, Viney decides to visit her sister Sarah Pickard, who lives on a run-down farm within sight of Claremore Mound. Sarah is the mother of Maisie, a young girl of seventeen years who recently married. The Pickard family is very poor and bordering on starvation....

(The entire section is 807 words.)