What does the snake do in Coyote Waits?

What the snake does in Coyote Waits is bite Odell Redd and kill him. This happens when Redd tries to grab hold of a bag full of money in a place sacred to the Navajo. What appears to be just an accident, therefore, has profound cultural resonance.

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Odell Redd's unfortunate end is somewhat fitting. After all, this is a man who's shown throughout the book that he simply can't be trusted, a man who tells Chee a lot of lies. It's therefore rather appropriate that such a devious, slippery customer should be sent on his way to...

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Odell Redd's unfortunate end is somewhat fitting. After all, this is a man who's shown throughout the book that he simply can't be trusted, a man who tells Chee a lot of lies. It's therefore rather appropriate that such a devious, slippery customer should be sent on his way to the next world by a slithering, poisonous snake.

Redd's death is poetic justice in another sense. Although he can certainly speak the Navajo language, he doesn't fully respect Navajo culture. We can observe this when he makes an ill-fated grab at a bag of money hidden inside a place that's sacred to the Navajo.

His subsequent death by snakebite could be construed in symbolic terms as the revenge of the Navajo gods for the desecration of one of their holy places. In Navajo mythology this particular place is guarded by Big Snake, one of the gods. There's more than a hint of deus ex machina about Redd's demise, a sense that a god has intervened at the last moment to tie up some lose ends in the plot.

Redd, who isn't a Navajo himself, is an interloper. He's someone who's trespassing on sacred ground simply to get his greedy hands on some money. As well as being a possible representation of the god Big Snake, the snake that finishes him off can also be seen as a living embodiment of the Navajo spirit that has dwelt in this land for centuries and which has been suppressed for too long by the likes of Odell Redd.

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