D’Arcy McNickle lays out the theme of the conflicts inherent in assimilation primarily through the character of Archilde Leon. As was typical in that era, Archilde is removed from the Native-American reservation and sent to boarding school to be educated. The experience of boarding school, in which he is distanced from every aspect of Native culture, creates an internal conflict with the boy. This conflict is permanent, but can be ameliorated by a few steps that he eventually takes.
After he finishes school, he does not return to his home but decides to live in Portland. There, he tries to earn a living playing the fiddle, but he achieves only limited success. When he does go home, he speaks proudly of the money he earned by pursuing his passion. He comes into conflict with both his mother and his father, who reject his emphasis on money. The conflict with his father also centers around his criticism of his son’s choice to live as a musician. The internal conflicts of distance from his heritage are shown in his body’s rejection of the traditional foods he eats at the feast his mother organizes. Archilde manages to mend some of the ruptures that occurred, returning to activities from which he drew inspiration and strength as a child.
Within his mother as well, we see internal conflicts between her long-standing Christian faith, which she had been forced to adopt as a child, and her return to Native spiritual traditions.