The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The sheer multitude of characters serves to emphasize the novel’s focus on the interplay between characters and events. The short sections of the novel move from character to character. Sometimes the point of view changes even within the short sections. Nearly all these characters are developed fully, and they make up a wide array of bizarre, sometimes perverse individuals. The characters are clustered, and each cluster is eventually tied to other clusters of characters; this movement unravels the narrative in the novel, emphasizing each event’s and person’s interplay in the novel’s nonstop motion.

Though no character dominates the novel, Sterling emerges as its conscience. Sterling, appearing near the beginning and at the end of the book, is unique among the characters in that he enters Tucson by accident, wandering into town with no real purpose, and then leaves it behind, taking only the awareness he has gained. His eventual gain of understanding for the endurance of the Earth and the importance of tribal spirits is the very heart of the novel. At the beginning, Sterling is immersed in the white system, and his self-delusion is rooted in his European thinking, symbolized by his obsession with crime magazines. Sterling’s fascination with the white image of “Geronimo” (his favorite “criminal”) illustrates his inability to understand reality in a tribal sense. Silko educates the reader about Geronimo’s “true” existence, as Sterling should have been educated, through the oral stories of an...

(The entire section is 624 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Lecha (LAY-chay), the mother of Ferro, and sister of Zeta. She is a celebrated psychic and keeper of the sacred Lakota text of the almanac. Initially in drug-dependent retirement, she ends up identifying herself with visionary, militant ecologists. Her complicated evolution is one of the novel’s main structures.


Sterling, the gardener in Lecha’s compound, exiled from his Pueblo home on mistaken grounds of cultural violation. His safe return to his native place is an understated counterpart of the more global nature of Lecha’s ultimate commitment. He attempts to retain his integrity and self-respect.


Seese, Sterling’s opposite number in Lecha’s household. She has a guilty past. If Sterling’s problems have ethnic origins, Seese’s originate in her gender and in her helpless involvement with an exploitative male world of drugs and sex.


Menardo (may-NAHR-doh), a Mexican entrepreneur. He illustrates the destructive and dehumanizing nature of personal greed and the international economic order that fosters it. His rise and fall has darkly comic as well as more sinister elements. His story can be read as a parodic treatment of the novel’s other shape-changing motifs.


David, a photographer, Seese’s lover and the father of her child. His reckless treatment of both these dependents has its moral payoff in his involvement with pornography and Nazi-style futurists. These developments are not only a critique of David’s disregard for Seese and the subsequent obscene exploitation of their child but also contrast vividly with the nurturing character of Lecha’s commitment.