Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Indians has two overriding concerns. The first is the American character or national identity, and the second is the U.S. role in the Vietnam War. Although it never mentions the war, Indians clearly protests America’s involvement in Vietnam.

America itself is embodied in Buffalo Bill, who is young, masculine, aggressive, charming, straightforward, and well intentioned. What is wrong with Buffalo Bill is his tendency to act without regard for long-term consequences: He kills the buffalo and in the process destroys the Native Americans’ livelihood. He is left, then, an imitation of himself, playing himself (and therefore no longer really himself) in his Wild West Show. In imitation of itself, according to Arthur Kopit, the United States, with its involvement in Vietnam, repeated its great mistake of the past century in its effort to dominate and control another country. The play’s application to Vietnam is at no point explicit. Kopit’s method is to define America by examining Buffalo Bill, in whose life he finds a number of parallels to that of the nation.

What myths, then, does the American self-image encompass? Were Americans in 1968 too confident of always being right? Is there something in the American national character that dictates that the nation will proceed with force and efficacy even when wrong? Indians seeks to answer such questions through implication rather than with directness. The...

(The entire section is 462 words.)

Indians Themes

Kopit’s primary theme in Indians is genocide (mass murder). Genocide is usually motivated by racial,...

(The entire section is 835 words.)