The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Victor is either the narrator or the main character of most of the stories in the book. He becomes the reader’s eyes and ears in the world of the Spokane Reservation, from the first glimpse of the disturbing New Year’s party when Victor is nine, to the quiet summing up of the themes of the book in the final story. He is perhaps the “typical” Native American youth, recounting his view of his society and his struggles with identity, alcohol, and family relationships. Thomas Builds-the-Fire is a near mythical character, a storyteller and thus a symbolic link to the past. The stories he tells are usually historical, casting one of his present-day friends into a historical situation—as in “A Drug Called Tradition,” in which he starts a round of storytelling by imagining his friend Victor raiding the camp of a rival tribe to steal a horse named Flight. In other stories, Thomas is ridiculed for telling too many stories, stories that the others do not want to hear anymore. Thomas’s strongest appearance is in the surrealistic piece “The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire.” In it, he “testifies” by telling stories, casting himself first as a horse among a herd captured by the cavalry in 1858, then as a warrior in a similar battle. Though he is originally charged with “telling the truth,” by the end of the trial, his crime is the murder of two soldiers in the story he told of events of a century before. Thomas represents the pull of tradition among...
(The entire section is 520 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Victor, a member of the Spokane tribe living on the reservation. At the age of five, he snuggles between his drunk parents to sleep. He is a gifted fancydancer at the age of nine and plays high school basketball. He surprises tribal members by playing the music of Béla Bartók at a barbecue. He is sporadically employed and drinks at times. His romances are not successful. He is a generous person and often apologetic. He retrieves his father’s ashes from Phoenix and notes that he can have a reunion with his high school classmates any weekend at the local bar. His needs are simple; primarily what he wants out of life is a fair trade.
Victor’s father, a protester of the Vietnam War who spent time in Walla Walla, Washington, and was at Woodstock when Jimi Hendrix played the national anthem. He takes his children to visit Hendrix’s gravesite and survives a serious motorcycle accident. He maintains that his wife is extremely beautiful. An absentee father, he travels around the country and dies in Phoenix.
Victor’s mother, who met her husband at a Spokane party and accepts his chronic absence from their marital life. She loves her husband in a steadfast way and weeps when he is found dead, even though they no longer lived together.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire, a childhood friend of Victor and...
(The entire section is 545 words.)