Christofer Van Eenanam is a hero alienated from the world—even, it seems, from his own wife. The final pages of What I’m Going to Do, I Think strongly suggest that the character is leaning toward suicide; there is a distinct emptiness in Chris Van Eenanam’s soul at the end of the first novel. By the time Indian Affairs opens, six years later, Chris has given up working for the “Establishment” in a brokerage firm, a period of his life that now is a source of embarrassment to him. His choice of English literature over mathematics as a field of study further reflects this change in his temperament. He feels the need to understand himself, to explore his heritage, and to find some deeper meaning to his life. Woiwode’s often disjointed plot line and the obscurity of Chris’s reasoning help to render his sense of confusion and of aimlessness throughout the novel.
Woiwode renders the conflicts in his main character’s life in a number of ways. Almost immediately, the uneasy relations between Chris and his wife are dramatized. Chris has apparently been drinking more than Ellen would like, and she disapproves of his buying liquor for underage locals. Chris’s thoughts ramble widely, now focused on cutting down a tree, now following a train of thought that leads to a childhood memory. From the beginning, Chris is established as a complex, confused, self-centered young man.
It is not until the final pages of the novel that Chris begins to feel a sense of self,...
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