What does water represent in Thomas King's Green Grass, Running Water?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Green Grass, Running Water, author Thomas King portrays Native Americans as struggling to balance their Native American traditions with the Western modern world in order to show just how much Western society has violated Native American land and culture. One way in which he portrays the struggle to balance Native American heritage with the modern world is by intertwining his story with various creation stories; each character tells a different creation story. A second way in which he helps portray this struggle of balance is through his recurring motif of water. Water is definitely used to represent many different things throughout the book.

One thing water represents is creation, and creation is used to link the Native American characters to their heritage. The author's point is to assert that Native Americans are just as much a part of creation as the white Anglo-Saxon, and did not deserve the ostracism and destruction the white colonialists had a tendency to dole out to the Native Americans. King clearly uses water to represent creation when he begins each creation story with the word water: "In the beginning, there was nothing. Just the water." Plus, since it is the Native American characters who relate the creation stories, we see that the author is using water and the creation stories to link Native Americans to creation, establishing them as a part of creation.

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