The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As a mixed-genre narrative, Bearheart contains an assortment of characters who are given different levels of aesthetic treatment. While some characters are portrayed more elaborately than others, none is truly rounded in the realistic sense. Many embody certain traits exemplifying ideas with mythical, allegorical, allusive, or satirical significance.

The most prominent character, Proude Cedarfair, is portrayed not only as a medicine man and a shaman, but also as a repository and transmitter of tribal wisdom and values. Ultimately, he attains the stature of a culture hero in his quest to become a bear, a motif common in Native American mythology and literature. His gamble with Sir Cecil Staples is reminiscent of cosmic struggles in Anishinabe myths. Apart from cultural and mythical heroism, Proude is also endowed with a strong sense of humanism—which can be seen, for example, when he tries to save Lilith Mae, or when he cuts open Belladonna’s womb in order to give her and her twins a proper burial.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sir Cecil Staples stands out as an archetype of evil. Even so, such a character exhibits certain complexities. For all of his Satanism, he also serves as an agent of social satire; his tremendous power to annihilate is derived from his ability to hoard unleaded gasoline, which he then uses as a lure to his victims, who in fact gamble with him with the full knowledge of the consequences. Furthermore, a...

(The entire section is 565 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Proude Cedarfair

Proude Cedarfair, the fourth of the Proude Cedarfairs, a shaman of mixed white and Chippewa (anishinaabe) blood. the nation’s economy has been destroyed, and the reservation agents and corrupt tribal officials are cutting the last of the Cedar Circus Reservation cedar trees. Proude leads a group of unusual pilgrims on a trek toward the vision window at Pueblo Bonito, where he believes he can lead his troupe into the fourth world.


Rosina, Proude’s wife. At the end of the journey, she comes over the desert with the sun and is identified with Changing Woman. She is one of three people who enter the fourth world.

Benito Saint Plumero

Benito Saint Plumero, or Bigfoot, one of the pilgrims. He is a mixed-blood clown/trickster whose major source of pride is a gigantic and very active penis, dubbed President Jackson. He is canonized and made a “double saint” on the journey.

Pio Wissakodewinini

Pio Wissakodewinini, another pilgrim, who has been charged erroneously with rape and was sentenced to a sex change, which was not entirely successful. He/she shifts identities and gender often during the journey.

Inawa Biwide

Inawa Biwide, a sixteen-year-old pilgrim rescued by the church from federal reservation housing. Inawa quickly becomes an apprentice shaman and eventually will follow Proude Cedarfair into the fourth world.

Bishop Omax Parasimo

Bishop Omax Parasimo, who rescued Inawa. He wears metamasks that allow him to become Sister Eternal Flame and other characters of all genders. He is obsessed with the romantic image of Indianness of the type propagated by Hollywood.

Belladonna Darwin-Winter Catcher

Belladonna Darwin-Winter Catcher, a pilgrim, the daughter of a Lakota shaman and a white anthropologist. She was conceived and born at Wounded Knee,...

(The entire section is 810 words.)