Because The Bone People is narrated through the consciousnesses of the three major characters, the reader comes to be far clearer about their motivations than he may be about the events which they recall in fragmentary fashion. The central character, Kerewin Holmes, perceives herself as someone who knows what she wants: solitude, independence, and celibacy. Her Tower is a fortress. The things she possesses are important; people are not. It is significant that she could cut off relations with her family but had to bear away an ancestral coffee mill, to which she now talks. Her first response to Simon is distaste; her first impulse, to send him back into the rain from which he came. Clearly, however, she does not know herself as well as she thought. When she discovers that he has a splinter in his foot, she must help him, and from that time onward, first Simon’s helplessness and insistent love and then Joe’s hurt make it impossible for her to be the person she had thought herself to be.
Simon’s own fearful nature and delinquent reactions are related not only to his terrifying, drugged infancy but also to Joe’s present alternation of affection and abuse, which have convinced Simon that he himself is evil. When he attacks Joe during the final beating, which almost costs Simon his life, the boy is asserting his own refusal to accept the responsibility for Joe’s actions and thus stating a new independence.
The most complex...
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Kerewin Holmes, the protagonist, a painter. A large-boned woman in her thirties who likes to adorn herself with rings, she lives alone in a tower-house that she built for herself. In her desire to avoid human contact, she has cut herself off even from her own family. She is kind to Simon, however, when he appears in her Tower, and she later comes to love both him and Joe, his foster father. Through her involvement with them, she learns her own need for others. At the end of the novel, she marries Joe and establishes a real home for Simon.
Joseph (Joe) Kakaukawa Gillayley
Joseph (Joe) Kakaukawa Gillayley (kah-kow-KAH-wa gihl-LAY-lee), a part-Maori factory worker. A dark-skinned, broad-shouldered man in his thirties, he has a deep, musical voice and an appealing smile. Since the death of his wife, Hana, Joe has indulged in alcohol and in brutality, regularly beating his foster son, even though he loves the boy. During the course of the novel, Joe exorcises his demons and commits himself to Maori traditions, as well as to making a new family with Kerewin and Simon.
Simon P. Gillayley
Simon P. Gillayley, a child of unknown parentage who was washed ashore from a shipwreck and adopted by Joe and his wife about three years before the time of the novel. A small, thin, sharp-featured boy of about six with a shock of blond hair, Simon cannot speak and communicates by gestures and by writing. His missing...
(The entire section is 633 words.)