The hurricane is a metaphor, which indicates that its meanings are figurative, but the author does use it in two ways, one of which is more literal than the other. The author uses the hurricane to describe the actual fight between Victor's brothers Adolph and Arnold, and the parallels between a storm and the fight have a literal feel to them. As the two Indians rage at each other, they are compared to "high-pressure and low-pressure fronts", and Victor stands at the window "watching his uncles grow bloody and tired", as if he is watching a hurricane.
In a larger sense, the hurricane is a metaphor for the treatment the Indians have received in their American homeland - since the coming of the white man, "for hundreds of years, Indians (have been) witnesses to crimes of an epic scale". The hurricane manifests itself in "unemployment and poverty...commodity foods...lies". Victor's father remembers how his father "was spit on as they waited for a bus in Spokane", and his mother remembers how "the Indian Health Service doctor sterilized her moments after Victor was born". Victor himself remembers the smell of "alcohol and...failure" on his brother, and the taste of "salt and whiskey" on his mother's skin. The hurricane of injustice and abuse has colored every aspect of Indian life, and despite momentary attempts at normality, each Indian has "a specific, painful memory of it".