What quotes could help with supporting the theme that people are complex and not what they appear to be?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Berger's work seeks to explore the complexity of "the West."  Filled with myths and romantic illusions, Little Big Man attempts to illuminate what might be seen as "the truth" regarding life in the region. The exploration of characters as more than simplistic caricatures is a part of this process. Individuals are shown to be alienated and vastly different than the social attachments and cliches they attract.  They are shown to be complex, beyond what superficial reality might indicate.  Jack, himself, represents this in how he sees his own life, straddling between different worlds and not attached to either:  “[I] kept telling myself I was basically an Indian, just as when among Indians I kept seeing how I was really white to the core.”  Within this, Jack is complex, "a person tending to go by the custom of wherever he’s stuck" and one where absolutist simplicity is far from evident.  

This trend is repeated in other moments in the text with other characters.  Kit Carson is shown to be more than his mythological status, while Wyatt Earp is shown to be more complex than his.  Custer is depicted as more than what he appears to be in history and in the complex reducing narrative that has swallowed him and the West, as a whole:  “I expect Custer was crazy enough to believe he would win, being the type of man who carries the whole world within his own head and thus when his passion is aroused and floods his mind, reality is utterly drowned.”  In this quote, Custer is shown to be complex, more than what he appears to be.  He is shown to be filled with emotions that collide with reality.  Such an idea makes Custer more than a narrowly focused general who believed in the singularity of his cause.  Rather, he is complex and, sadly enough, human.  This same revelation is seen with Wild Bill Hickok.  When Jack is in need of assistance and encounters Wild Bill, the gunslinger's response is a complex one:  "I never shot anyone for telling tall stories of that nature, which I've done myself to greenhorns, but I've knocked him down. If a handout is what you need, then you oughta ask and not try to make a fool of me."  Wild Bill is complex enough, one who succumbs to "sartorial tastes" and a code of aesthetics that might not be readily evident in the traditional storytelling of "the West."  This is another example of the complexity of individuals, being more than what they appear to be.  The unpacking of the West is part of this process, revealing the complex within the setting and the people within it.

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