The Influence of the Past

The major theme of The Plague of Doves has to do with the weighed influence that the past plays on present lives. At the end of the novel, Cordelia as the town’s historian looks back on the events that have woven together the community of Pluto, and the irony is astounding. As the novel unfolds, the characters learn that they cannot abandon the ills of the past and that their lives must in some way account for past wrongs. Mooshum never speaks of his role in the hanging of his three friends, and he allows his alcoholism to cover his guilt. When Evelina finds out the truth, Mooshum must step down from his revered position in their relationship and admit that he has been living a lie. Cuthbert Peace’s run of tragic luck follows his progeny right down to Corwin Peace, whose involvement with drugs and crime bring him nothing but trouble. As a result, the characters learn that they must live by honestly accepting the roots of their existence.


Revenge creates a deep wound on the soul of Pluto, and the characters experience much hardship as a consequence. The white mob is driven by the sight of the murdered family to exact revenge. Indians are an easy scapegoat on whom to lay blame, and the pack of men set their sights on making someone pay. The mob uses the Indian men as a warning to incite the townspeople and further divide the people. Thus, vengeance pervades the character of Pluto.

Sin and Redemption

The unjust hanging of the Indian men by the white mob influences the ways in which crimes are dealt with in Pluto and on the reservation. When Corwin Peace steals Shamengwa’s beloved violin, the court is prepared to permanently do away with Corwin; Corwin’s string of crimes involving drugs and theft has turned the court against him. But fearing that incarceration will only continue to drag down the Native American community,...

(The entire section is 761 words.)