Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Woiwode is a Christian author, and despite the book’s Native American themes, the ultimate consolation for the main characters in the novel is also a fundamental Christian belief, the very foundation of Christianity: the resurrection of the dead. This belief is the only hope for one who needs to keep faith with a benevolent God. It is with this act of faith that Chris accepts both his heritage and his destiny.

In the meandering plot of the novel, the senseless and violent acts of the teenage Indians, the arson of Gaylin, and the deaths and injuries sustained by this violence can in no way be morally justified. The irrational hatred of the implied anti-Semitism of Ellen’s grandparents, a hatred that seemingly is so strong that it drove her parents to suicide, is especially ironic as it comes from a supposedly devout Christian Scientist couple. The willingness of the book’s Native Americans to exploit their own customs and religion for profit belies their indignant protestations of having been ravaged by whites. For Woiwode, it seems, this senseless perpetuation of injustice can never be understood in this life. The only hope for true understanding is in the afterlife.

Family dynamics are also explored in the novel. The pain experienced by the death of a child and the rift that such an event can create in a marriage becomes clear as the issue continually arises but is never discussed by Chris and Ellen. It is a seemingly unresolvable pain....

(The entire section is 492 words.)