The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Belle Graycloud is established very early on as the matriarchal figure in the novel, and her ties to the people, the traditions, and the earth make her a vital character in the development of the novel’s theme. She is compared to Lila Blanket, the river prophet of the Hill people, who, the reader is told, is a powerful matriarch of the Hill settlement. While Lila nurtures the Hill settlement, Belle nurtures the town of Watona. Lila trusts Belle with her only child, Grace, who Lila hopes will learn the ways of the white people and help to save the Hill settlement. Lila is the biological mother of Nola, and Belle becomes the nurturing mother of the believed savior of the people. Though Grace does not follow in her mother’s footsteps, Nola—in essence, granddaughter to both women—will prove to be a river prophet, a fact suggested by her understanding of the water’s messages near the end of the novel. Faithfully, Belle follows the traditions of her heritage. She performs the corn ceremony during planting season while other Indians use fertilizer; she wears traditional clothing and practices traditional medicine. She also protects and communes with the sacred animals of the earth—eagles, bats, buffalo, and bees—proving a vigilant warrior when these animals are threatened or desecrated. Hogan’s characterization of Belle works to unite the earth, the people, and their traditions. When the traditions are not observed and the earth and its animals are injured,...

(The entire section is 452 words.)

Mean Spirit Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Belle Graycloud

Belle Graycloud, a tribal leader of the Osage people and matriarch of the Graycloud family. She lives with her family on a farm in Watona, Oklahoma, is well schooled in tribal medicine, and keeps bees. Her peaceful life is disrupted when white businessmen swindle Indians out of their oil-rich land and murder them. Belle makes a courageous stand against the local authorities at Sorrow Cave, where she protests the shooting of sacred bats by townspeople. When John Hale and his partners discover oil on her land, she is shot by Jess Gold and left for dead. She survives, and the Indian community stages a mock funeral to protect her. Belle goes into hiding among the elusive Hill people. She later returns to her family just before Hale is convicted of theft and murder.

Moses Graycloud

Moses Graycloud, Belle’s husband and Osage elder. Although quiet and less flamboyant than his wife, Moses is an outspoken leader. When government officials try to cheat him and other Indians out of their government allotments, Moses bravely objects, but to no avail. As a result of his reduced income, Moses must sell his prize horse and other items to support his family. When sacred eagles are slaughtered for their feathers, Moses writes letters of protest to President Warren Harding and also informs him of the murders of oil-rich Indians. He staunchly supports Belle at Sorrow Cave. When his house is bombed, Moses kills his brother-in-law, who is a member of Hale’s gang.

Michael Horse

Michael Horse, a seer and keeper of the eternal fire of the Osage tribe. He is the last person in the territory to live in a tepee but one of the first to own a car. Michael is the tribal historian and keeps a personal diary as well. His quest to capture Benoit’s horse, Redshirt, leads him to the Hill settlement, where he continues his work on the history of his people.

Grace Blanket

Grace Blanket, one of the Hill...

(The entire section is 818 words.)