A central theme in James Welch's debut novel Winter in the Blood is alienation. The narrator remains nameless in order to underscore the theme and sense of alienation. Remaining nameless underscores a sense of alienation because, unless we have our own identities, which are established through names, we are unable to connect with and relate to others.
The unnamed narrator is a 32-year-old man of the Blackfeet Indian tribe. We learn that his father, called First Raise, died 10 years ago. Though his father was an alcoholic, the narrator's mother, Teresa, insists that he had been helpful around the house. First Raise used to visit a bar in Dodson where he used to drink with white ranchers. That year's winter was harsh, and walking home drunk, First Raise unfortunately froze to death. Prior to his father's death, the narrator's brother Mose also died. The narrator and Mose had been herding their father's cattle, when while crossing the highway, Mose had been hit.
As a result of these deaths, the narrator feels he has lived the rest of his life feeling aware of absolutely nothing but their deaths, aware of nothing about his surrounding world. As a result, the narrator feels estranged and alienated from the world and even calls himself, a "servant to a memory of death" (38). Since he is so alienated from the world, as the book progresses, he learns that things are not really as he thought they were. For example, he remembers his father being away most of the time and is surprised to hear his mother Teresa say, "He was around enough. When he was around he got things accomplished ... You must have him mixed up with yourself" (18).