The Blessing Way Themes
by Tony Hillerman

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The Blessing Way Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Lieutenant Leaphorn works for the Law and Order Division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ironically, as in much modern detective fiction, the representative of law and order seems much more concerned to see that he serves order, rather than law. Moreover, the Navajo Way is concerned primarily with balance, and with maintaining the harmony that exists as a result of the interconnectedness, and interdependency, of all things. Thus, as a detective, Leaphorn serves not only the cause of justice, but the very basis of Navajo culture itself, by restoring order to a society unbalanced by crime and death.

Alienation is perhaps Hillerman's strongest theme in The Blessing Way. Each of the four major male characters in the novel feels alienated from his culture in some way, and the only woman character of any importance in the novel—Ellen Leon— becomes increasingly alienated from her fiance as the plot progresses, until she suspects him of murder near the end of the novel. However, Hillerman stresses that, while alienation in and of itself is a negative aspect of human existence that should be avoided when possible, it is the individual reaction to this situation that is important. The Navajo people, for instance, live fairly isolated lives, with each family generally living miles away from its closest neighbors, yet "The People" retain at least some sense of cultural identity. Additionally, Leaphorn uses his dual existence in both the Native American and the Anglo American worlds both to his benefit and to the benefit of society in general and Navajo society in particular, using what he has learned from each to his advantage. George "Big Navajo" Jackson, in contrast, becomes corrupted at least in part due to his separation from his homeland, his people, and his unguarded exposure to Anglo culture, and has chosen a criminal lifestyle.