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.)