The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Griever de Hocus, an autobiographical character, is a bright, well-educated crossbreed Chippewa Indian half a world away from his Minnesota roots. In Tianjin, he teaches English. Vizenor constructs in Griever the traditional trickster of Native American legend, a figure that occurs in most of his writing. Griever is mischievous but resolute in his defiance of despotism. He prefers to outwit rather than outfight his opponents. Griever almost singlehandedly creates the action that propels the novel. He is an omniscient third-person narrator as well as the perpetrator of all the book’s crucial events.

Egas Zhang is the slippery villain. He is the quintessential bureaucrat, an obedient man devoid of independent values or principles. He appears accommodating, but behind this façade, his xenophobia lurks. This xenophobia is heightened by his knowledge that his wife conceived a child by an American who had lost his citizenship. She insisted on delivering this child, Kangmei, and Egas had to rear Kangmei as his own despite her blonde hair, a badge of illegitimacy. History repeats itself when Egas’s own daughter, Hester Hua Dan, becomes pregnant after an encounter with Griever, who is Egas’s virtual opposite in every fundamental respect.

China Browne is the friend back home. She is a sounding board to whom Griever writes regularly. Letters to her begin and end the book, creating a frame for the novel.

Kangmei, Egas Zhang’s...

(The entire section is 524 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Griever de Hocus

Griever de Hocus, a fair-skinned mixed-blood from the White Earth Reservation. He merges through dreams with the trickster of Chinese mythology, the Monkey King. As the combination Native American trickster/Monkey King, he re-imagines the world, invents a nonspatial, nontemporal existence, and attacks the hypocrisies of the Chinese as well as his fellow American exchange teachers and the human race in general. He is the son of a gypsy whose “Universal Hocus Crown” caravan stopped long enough at the reservation to sell plastic icons, miniature grails, and a book on health, and for the gypsy to engender Griever. Griever impregnates Hester Hua Dan and is very happy about it, even though he is fondling the breasts of Gingerie a few moments before he learns of Hester’s (and their unborn daughter’s) death. In true trickster form, he “liberates” prisoners and chickens, is safely smuggled out of danger, and winds up on Obo Island, a land where mythological people exist in real form. Ultimately, the trickster escapes the “terminal state” of China in an airplane bound for Macao. He is the central decentralizing character in an intensely political trickster novel.

China Browne

China Browne, who also is from the White Earth Reservation. She goes to China to locate Griever. She finds Wu Chou, who shows her a scroll with pictures drawn on it. The pictures on the scroll tell the story of Griever de Hocus. A letter to China from Griever opens the book, and a...

(The entire section is 623 words.)