Themes and Meanings
Thomas King lives with a foot in two worlds, the Native American world that is part of his heritage and the world of the white society of which he is fundamentally a part despite his Cherokee lineage. He understands both worlds well. He writes in Green Grass, Running Water, as he did in his first novel, Medicine River (1990), with a greater sympathy for the underdog society than for the dominant society.
Green Grass, Running Water directs its social commentary to current topics, including the feminist cause. Alberta is a liberated woman, bright, well-educated, and financially independent. She wants motherhood but denies any necessary connection between motherhood and marriage. She is a nurturing sort, more drawn to Lionel than to Charlie because Lionel is the less successful of the two, the one who needs nurturing. This, however, does not make Alberta want to marry him.
Throughout the novel, white society transgresses upon the native culture in ways both small and large. The small transgressions occur in insensitive acts: for example, a white tourist happens upon the Sun Dance and begins photographing it. Even worse, George, who is married to Latisha, a successful, independent Native American, wants to photograph the Sun Dance and, in an abortive reunion with Latisha, makes slighting remarks about her culture—something that Eli’s white wife, Karen, never did.
In one heartbreaking vignette, King tells...
(The entire section is 537 words.)