Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 874

Creech develops several strong themes in Chasing Redbird. Perhaps the strongest is the coming-of-age theme. Zinnia Taylor is thirteen years old. She must learn to handle new emotions involving issues of boyfriends and death, space to be herself, know herself, and control over her life.

Another theme addresses some...

(The entire section contains 874 words.)

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Creech develops several strong themes in Chasing Redbird. Perhaps the strongest is the coming-of-age theme. Zinnia Taylor is thirteen years old. She must learn to handle new emotions involving issues of boyfriends and death, space to be herself, know herself, and control over her life.

Another theme addresses some of the unsettling emotions of puberty; her attraction to Jake Boone, her dislike of Jake Boone, her hope that he really does like her and not May, and her fear that he is only using her to get close to May. At the same time she loves her family and cannot bear to be with her family. Changes in the way her body looks cause discomfort. She has a need for privacy in a space that is all hers, a place to keep her personal possessions and treasures. These are themes common to young people Zinny's age.

Another theme is separation and loss. Young people lose people who are close to them. Death may be one cause. It may be separation for a variety of reasons. For Zinny, it is the death of her beloved Cousin Rose and Aunt Jesse, people close to her. Her life has become introspective and riddled with guilt as she sorts through her emotions. She must come to terms with their deaths. Feeling certain she is the cause of both deaths makes her feel unworthy to be alive herself. Young people may have similar feelings of guilt because they are alive when close friends meet an untimely death.

Zinny Taylor is a feisty thirteen-year-old. She is a strong character with definite ideas about right and wrong, the importance of friends, and sensitivity towards her Uncle Nate and Aunt Jessie. She is determined, maybe a little headstrong, and she definitely becomes obsessive. She resents being treated as a child by her two older sisters, with whom she shares a bedroom. She pretends to be asleep so she can listen in on their conversations and takes special delight in "knowing" that Jake Boone's gifts and attentions are for her and not May.

As the story begins, Zinny is unsure of who she is and unsure of her place in her family and her responsibility for the death of her Aunt Jessie and cousin, Rose. As the story progresses she becomes more self-sufficient, introspective, and courageous as she tackles the clearing of the trail at the back of their farm. As the days and weeks pass, Zinny becomes self-assured and learns the truth about her Aunt Jessie's death. She learns to talk to and listen to her parents. She finds joy in the fact that she really does like Jake Boone and that the feeling is mutual.

Jake Boone, a tall broad-shouldered boy of sixteen with short dark hair, moves back to Bybanks with his mother and immediately wants to renew his acquaintance with Zinny. He gives her a box of bottle caps to add to her collection, a puppy, a small wooden horse, and finally his mother's diamond and ruby ring. Jake is a man with a mission, too. He cares about Zinny even if she rejects his overtures of friendship. He cares so much that he watches over her at night as she camps on the trail. He places little things at her camp site that she neglected to pack. At first there was a cup amid the cans of beans, then a can opener, and finally a bar of soap. Zinny was worried about her brain because she could not remember bringing any of those things.

Uncle Nate is the brother of Zinny's father. He and Aunt Jessie welcome Zinny into their home as if she were their daughter. Jessie's life is bound up in that of her daughter Rose, and when Rose dies of whooping cough, Aunt Jessie seems unable to continue living. Following his wife's death, Uncle Nate's behavior becomes erratic. He sees things that are not there. He is certain Jessie, his Redbird, is out there somewhere and chases over the farm and into the hills in search of her. His mind seems more and more removed from reality, which causes Zinny and her family much concern.

Zinny's parents and family live on her grandparent's farm. Her father and Uncle Nate inherited the property. Her mother seems preoccupied with work responsibilities and caring for a large family. Zinny thinks her mother is happy to have one less child to think about, thus glad Zinny is with Uncle Nate and Aunt Jessie. Her father is occupied with earning a living to support his large family. He does display an understanding of Zinny's need for space and consents to her adventure. Her mother consents only after extracting promises and conditions from Zinny. Dad shows parental love and concern when he hitches a frequent ride with a local crop duster to check on Zinny.

Zinny's siblings are all background characters, a supporting cast. They are rambunctious, noisy, and sometimes demanding of each other. Her two older sisters must share their room with Zinny. They view her with disdain and talk about her when they think she is asleep. May is certain that Jake's attentions and presents are really for her, not Zinny, and Zinny is too thick-headed to know it.

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