Green Grass, Running Water

by Thomas King
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Which characters accept their culture and background, and which ones deny it in Green Grass, Running Water? Why?

Some characters in Green Grass, Running Water who deny their culture and background in various ways are Eli, who reveres William Shakespeare, and Charlie, who values his corporate ties over his own heritage. However, there is certainly some gray area in this matter, as characters like Alberta and Latisha both go against traditional values while standing up for their tribe and supporting the place they came from.

Expert Answers

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I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that some characters in Thomas King’s novel “accept their culture” while other characters “deny it.” I’d advise readers to allow for some gray area.

For example, readers could claim that Alberta’s desire to have a child without a man represents a kind of betrayal of her culture. One could argue that Alberta doesn’t think any man from her tribe is good enough for her. Yet, this also could represent a continuation or acceptance of her background. Her ability to become pregnant without a man demonstrates the mystical powers of her culture. Alberta isn’t denying these magical forces. She’s using them to her advantage.

More so, one could claim that Eli abandons his culture. Instead of thinking about his own identity and people, he’s studying the white and Western William Shakespeare. Eli’s relationship to Shakespeare represents a kind of assimilation. Then again, readers shouldn’t forget that Eli stands up for his tribe. He protests the ominous dam.

Then there’s Latisha. One could say that she’s going against her culture—or, at the very least, exploiting it—with her Dead Dog Cafe. Yet, one could also argue that she’s using her tribe to her advantage. She’s manipulating the myths and stereotypes in order to make a living.

One character that does seem to fit rather neatly into the “deny it” category is Charlie Looking Bear. Charlie is doing more than denying his culture: he’s endangering it. His corporate ties are putting people in harm’s way. It’s hard to think of a way in which Charlie’s actions reflect an acceptance of his tribe.

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