Laughing Boy is both a love story and a narrative of cultural and individual conflict. Set in 1915 on the Navajo Reservation of the Southwest before the first automobile arrived, the novel depicts an unspoiled way of life. An omniscient narrator recounts the action in a straightforward, linear manner, though considerable foreshadowing of events occurs.
Attending a ceremonial dance at Tsé Lani, a Navajo village on the southern edge of the reservation, Laughing Boy meets and falls in love with Slim Girl, a beautiful young Navajo who has been reared in Anglo society near the reservation. From Red Man, one of her admirers, he wins a wrestling match but acquires an enemy at the same time. Against the advice of his uncle and others who have heard of her past, he marries Slim Girl, and they move into her adobe hut outside Los Palos, a town near the reservation. While Slim Girl learns weaving and Navajo customs, Laughing Boy continues his life much as it had been on the reservation, tending his horses and sheep and crafting fine jewelry.
Slim Girl goes into town periodically, explaining to Laughing Boy that she is working for a missionary’s wife. In reality, she is meeting an American rancher whose mistress she has been for some time. She does this in order to save the money he gives her for eventual resettlement on the reservation, her major objective in life. When she and Laughing Boy travel far into the reservation to attend a...
(The entire section is 423 words.)