Several settings play an important role in Green Grass, Running Water. One of the most important is the log cabin that belonged to Eli’s mother. Eli has lived away from his homeland for much of his life, so his return to the house in which he was born is significant. In the larger thematic scheme of King’s novel, it represents a return to his own culture—one that he denied and avoided for most of his adult life. The log cabin also has a larger symbolic significance in reinforcing the central struggle of the novel: the conflict between dominant White modern culture against traditional Native American beliefs and practices. In many ways, the encroachment of the dam project on Eli’s land is representative of the long history of encroachment that Native Americans have endured at the hands of whites. Most importantly, Norma convinces Lionel to help her rebuild the cabin after its destruction by the dam break. The cabin symbolizes the resilience of the Blackfoot culture in the face of adversity.
The dam also serves as an important place in Green Grass, Running Water. King foreshadows the eventual destruction of the dam at several points, revealing the leaks and other construction problems. The dam also fits into the polarity of White and Native American cultures represented in the novel. Throughout the book, White culture is synonymous with modernity while Native American culture is equated with tradition. On a deeper level, White Culture is tied to technology and construction while Native American Culture is linked to nature. As a result, the dam is the ultimate point of conflict: a man-made structure holding back a force of nature. King makes it clear early in the story which force will win, but he does so by linking the natural and the man-made to a third force: the supernatural. The mysterious appearance of the three “stolen” cars in the river (and their not-so-subtle comparison to the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) represent the importance of higher powers. Until this point, the natural and the man-made have been at an impasse (a standoff further exemplified by the relationship between Eli and Sifton). It takes the intervention of the supernatural to create change; when the three cars are...
(The entire section is 914 words.)