(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Martiniano, a troubled young Pueblo Indian who has been sent away to the white man’s school, shoots a deer on government land exactly two days after the hunting season has closed. Martiniano is soon spotted by a forest ranger, who flies into a rage over the killing of the animal and strikes Martiniano with his gun. With his head bleeding, Martiniano manages to escape by hiding in a stream. The next morning, Palemon, who has been unable to sleep, rescues him, drawn by some powerful, intuitive knowledge of his friend’s distress.

Martiniano is found guilty and given a fine of $150, which is paid by Rodolfo Byers, the white man who runs the trading post. After the trial, Martiniano’s life begins to fall apart. His marriage to Flowers Playing becomes more and more unhappy; the couple begin to drift apart. He is increasingly aware of his role as an outsider, a man who does not seem to belong in either the world of whites or the world of Indians. He is not allowed to live in the pueblo proper but in a hut at the edge of the pueblo. Martiniano refuses to remove the heels of his boots, cut out the seat of his pants, or sing the required tribal songs—and he is punished for all these acts of rebellion. At the center of all his problems is the killing of the deer: “ That deer!’ he exclaimed suddenly. That’s what they are holding against me most of all. That cursed deer which I killed! That is what has destroyed my wife’s love and faith!’”

In a desperate attempt to shake off his profound depression, Martiniano becomes involved with Manuel Rena and his peyote cult. The drug, however, only exacerbates Martiniano’s sense of...

(The entire section is 677 words.)

The Man Who Killed the Deer Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Blackburn, Alexander. A Sunrise Brighter Still: The Visionary Novels of Frank Waters. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991. Chapters on each of Waters’s novels, with an introduction that surveys the writer’s purposes and his career and a conclusion arguing that Waters is a major American writer. Includes detailed notes and extensive bibliography.

Deloria, Vine, Jr., ed. Frank Waters: Man and Mystic. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1993. Memoirs of Waters and commentaries on his novels, emphasizing his prophetic style and sense of the sacred.

Lyon, Thomas J. Frank Waters. New York: Twayne, 1973. Fills a critical vacuum by analyzing Waters’s themes and artistic style. After sketching Waters’s life, Lyon examines his nonfiction, showing him to be a writer of ideas with a sacred theory of the earth and Hopi mythic values. Focuses on seven novels as narrations of these ideas, from Fever Pitch to Pike’s Peak, and also discusses his minor works, including the biography of The Earp Brothers of Tombstone, the children’s biography of Robert Gilruth, his book reviews, and his essays on writing. The last chapter summarizes the book’s thesis and calls for more study of Waters’s work. Contains a chronology, notes and references, a selected annotated bibliography, and an index.

South Dakota Review 15 (Autumn, 1977). A special Frank Waters issue, containing these essays: “The Sound of Space,” by John Milton; “Frank Waters’s Mexico Mystique: The Ontology of the Occult,” by Jack L. Davis; “Frank Waters and the Visual Sense,” by Robert Kostka; “Frank Waters and the Concept of Nothing Special,’ ” by Thomas J. Lyon; “Teaching Yoga in Las Vegas,” by Charles L. Adams; “Frank Waters and the Mountain Spirit,” by Quay Grigg; “The Conflict in The Man Who Killed the Deer,” by Christopher Hoy; “Mysticism and Witchcraft,” by Waters; and “Frank Waters,” by John Manchester.