Geronimo: The Last Apache War Chief Critical Essays

Edgar Wyatt


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Geronimo is portrayed by Wyatt as a leader. At the time of this book’s writing, many people, upon hearing the name “Geronimo,” would think of a murderous savage. Wyatt seeks instead to present the individual, his motivation, the world of the Native American, and the reasons that the wars between whites and Native Americans occurred.

Probably the most basic theme impressed upon the young reader is that the Apache nation took what it needed, exactly as other Americans bought or made what they needed. The tribe hunted animals to use their meat and hides. It simply did not occur to the Apaches that taking could be perceived as wrong—it was the way in which they lived. Whites criticized the Apache way of life and tried to destroy their livelihood. This point, while not stated directly, is evident in several passages.

Apache customs, especially colorful ones, will intrigue the young mind. For example, to find out if his sweetheart will marry him, a warrior ties some horses to her family’s wickiup, or hut. The father then comes out and casually examines the horses, to see if they meet with his approval. If he leaves the horses, then he is signifying his blessing. The woman will then come out and, if she likes the suitor, will take the horses to the creek for water. The young warrior waits in the bushes to discover whether his suit is successful.

The emotional level of the biography is suitable for the 1950’s young reader because the action, while in reality extremely violent, takes on a detached feeling. Consequently, some readers may find the narrative a trifle bland. In the course of this chronological story, the reader first empathizes with Geronimo as a young boy, then worries over his mistakes as an adolescent, and then follows his story when he becomes a...

(The entire section is 735 words.)