Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282
Themes of Indian Killer include identity, cultural isolation, and the appropriation of Native American culture.
Identity is a major theme in the novel. Many of the characters feel that they have incomplete identities or that they've lost some part of their identity. There is a literal loss as well. In the beginning, a young new mother has her child taken from her in the hospital. He's raised by another family and loses a part of his identity through this. He doesn't have a connection to the culture he came from and doesn't have an understanding of himself.
The theme of identity ties into the theme of cultural isolation. John Smith, in particular, represents the effects of isolation. Because he was removed from his Native American culture and raised in white culture, he doesn't feel that he's part of either. He has no connection to the heritage of his blood; he doesn't look like other people who are part of white society. This leads him down the path to madness. Reggie, on the other hand, is forced to give up any part of his Indian culture in order to claim his father's last name.
The appropriation of Native American culture is another theme in the novel. The best example of this is Jack. He creates a fake tribal identity for himself. He has no sense of himself, so rather than finding out about his true heritage, he appropriates Native American culture and doesn't learn about the real culture itself. Instead, he twists it to be what suits him best and what he believes will make him who he wants to be. He also makes a career out of writing about Native American culture.