The novel has essentially only one character, Cecelia herself. Although the book is narrated in the third person, Cecelia is the only character presented internally as well as externally; hers is the only consciousness readers enter. All other characters— including those with direct bearing on the action—appear only as they affect her. This close-up technique highlights and heightens Cecelia’s persona, enabling the reader to identify easily with her, to experience events through her. Because the novel is an exercise in ethnic consciousness-raising, this succeeds: Readers certainly learn the problems in development faced by Native American women. Yet the approach also reduces the status of all other characters and possible points of view.
Cecelia is complex enough and her situation difficult enough to deserve central staging in a work devoted to her. Simply describing that situation illustrates the complexity and difficulty. She is a thirty-year-old, reservation-reared, codependent Native American woman in her second year of law school. She thus exemplifies at least six levels of social and cultural dislocation, six barriers to her chosen goal.
Reared in segregation, she begins with the burdens of inferior education and inadequate role models, conditioned to accept secondary, or even tertiary, status. With an alcoholic father and disabled mother, she has grown up assuming that such deficiencies are normal. Membership in an ethnic minority...
(The entire section is 588 words.)