Sundown is both a chronicle and a didactic exercise. Mathews’s characters are thereby denied some of their potential dimensions so that the author can better convey his principal message: Namely that because of their values, the Osage are victims of the dubious concept of “progress” as embodied in white American society.
Chal, Mathews’s mixed-blood protagonist, exemplifies the degradation that befell most American Indian cultures, unable as they were to maintain tribal integrity in the face of white incursions into their lands and values. Chal’s heart looks in two directions. On the one hand, he profoundly enjoys and respects the fraternity with nature taught by the Osage’s full-blooded elders; in a more specific way, he seeks to make his Osage mother proud of him within her traditional frame of reference. Yet on the other hand, he is drawn by the positive, confident, and assertive views of John Windzer, his white father, who doggedly persists in believing that the government will rectify the manifest injustices and dangers to which the Osage are exposed by the white people flooding into their midst. Chal is unsuited to function positively in either world, and he is confused by the attractions and repulsions of each.
While Chal’s boyhood reactions to several white characters—merchants such as Jep Newberg and Mr. Fancher, teachers such as Miss Hoover, Christian do-gooders such as Cousin Ellen, and oilmen such as Osage...
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