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...
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