John Joseph Mathews Criticism - Essay

Kenneth C. Kaufman (review date 8 November 1934)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Indian's Burden," in The Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 1934, p. 18.

[In the review below, Kaufman provides a highly favorable assessment of Sundown.]

No figure in the American scene is more inherently tragic than that of the young Indian who realizes fully the loss of his fathers' material and spiritual heritage, but who is unable to adjust himself to white civilization. Such a one is Chal Windzer [of Sundown], son of a mixed blood Osage father and of a full blood Osage mother, born about the turn of the century, when the Osages, Chal's father among them, were eagerly looking forward to the exploitation of their reservation in northern Oklahoma. He is molded by his heroic, tender, loyal mother and the old warriors into a typical little Indian boy.

But civilization comes to the Osage; first the cattle men, then the oil boom, with its attending demoralization. And his father's influence is at work. Chal wants to be a white man, but he does not know how. At his state university he is welcomed by the glad handers because of his handsome physique and his wealth; he feels the insincerity, the emptiness back of much college life, but he has no refuge from it except lonely walks on the prairie.

The outbreak of the war is a relief. He understands the function of war; his people were warriors. Flying appeals to him; many Osages are named "Eagle."...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

Oliver La Farge (review date 24 November 1934)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Realistic Story of an Indian Youth," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. XI, No. 19, November 24, 1934, p. 309.

[An American novelist, editor, nonfiction writer, autobiographer, and author of children's books, La Farge won the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel Laughing Boy. Also the winner of the 1931 O. Henry Memorial Prize, La Farge has frequently written about Native Americans and has served as president of the National Association on Indian Affairs and the Association on American Indian Affairs. In the review of Sundown below, he praises Mathews's realistic and sensitive portrayal of Native Americans.]

Mr. Mathews,...

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The New York Times Book Review (review date 25 November 1934)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "An Educated Indian," in The New York Times Book Review, November 25, 1934, pp. 19-20.

[In the following, the critic offers a mixed review of Sundown.]

The god of the great Osages was still dominant over the wild prairie and the Blackjack Hills when Chal Windzer was born. His Indian father, out of a vague and rather pointless ecstasy which assailed him on the night of his son's birth, had called him Challenge, saying: "He shall be a challenge to the disinheritors of his people." Though what it was the boy was to challenge, John Windzer never knew and his son never succeeded in finding out.

Sundown presents a very moving picture of the...

(The entire section is 701 words.)

J. Frank Dobie (review date 21 October 1951)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Black Gold and Roses," in The New York Times Book Review, October 21, 1951, pp. 3, 42.

[Dobie was an American educator, critic, and editor who frequently wrote about Southwestern history and folklore. In the review below, he favorably assesses Life and Death of an Oilman.]

Of all the filibusters, developers, demagogues (for no statesman of high rank can be named) cowmen, oilmen and other lusty figures who have played their parts on the vast earthen stage of the Southwest during the last hundred and fifty years, hardly half a dozen have received treatment in biographies that can be called mature. Life and Death of an Oilman is one of the scant half...

(The entire section is 936 words.)

John C. Ewers (review date 24 September 1961)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tribal Tribute," in The New York Times Book Review, September 24, 1961, p. 24.

[An American anthropologist, ethnologist, and prolific writer, Ewers is a specialist of Native American culture. In the following review, he praises the literary qualities of The Osages.]

Oxford-educated John Joseph Mathews, great-grandson of an Osage woman and a missionary who translated the Bible into the Osage language, has written a sympathetic history of his great-grandmother's tribe [in The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters]. Likening his task to the reconstruction of a dinosaur from many scattered fragments, he has fitted together ingeniously the Indians' oral...

(The entire section is 871 words.)

Charles R. Larson (essay date 1978)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Assimilation: Estrangement from the Land," in his American Indian Fiction, University of New Mexico Press, 1978, pp. 34-65.

[Larson is an American critic, essayist, novelist, and editor. In the excerpt below, he discusses the themes of estrangement and assimilation in Sundown.]

In the last chapter of John J. Mathews' Wah'Kon-Tah (a nonfiction account of life on the Osage Reservation during the tenure of its first federal agent, Major Laban J. Miles), there is a description of an Indian youth who returns from the white world affected by liquor, hot music, and fast cars. He is especially contemptuous of his parents:


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Martha Royce Blaine (review date November 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Talking to the Moon, in American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4, November, 1979, pp. 362-64.

[In the following, Blaine praises Mathews's treatment of nature in Talking to the Moon.]

John Joseph Mathews is best known for his two works, The Osages, Children of the Middle Waters and Wah' Kon Tah, The Osage and the White Man's Road. Talking to the Moon, a lesser known work, was first printed in 1945 and recently reprinted. Mathews, a quarter-blood Osage, participated in the two cultures of his heritage. Born in 1894 at Pawhuska on the Osage reservation in Indian territory, he was reared there and observed both the traditional Osage...

(The entire section is 873 words.)

Carol Hunter (essay date Fall-Winter 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Protagonist as a Mixed-Blood in John Joseph Mathews' Novel: Sundown," in American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 6, Nos. 3&4, Fall-Winter, 1982, pp. 319-37.

[In the essay below, Hunter discusses Mathews's treatment of the theme of the "assimilated or mixed-blood Indian as an alienated character" in Sundown.]

John Joseph Mathews' novel, Sundown, recreates as its setting Osage history from the period prior to the allotment of Osage Indian land in 1906 through the oil boom of the 1920s. It also traces the search for cultural identity of Challenge Windzer, a young mixed-blood from a wealthy Osage family. Sundown, initially published in 1934,...

(The entire section is 5980 words.)

Reginald and Gladys Laubin (review date August 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Talking to the Moon, in Western American Literature, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, August, 1983, pp. 179-80.

[American critics, Reginald and Gladys Laubin have produced numerous films and works on Native American art and culture. In the following, they offer a positive assessment of Talking to the Moon.]

[John Joseph Mathew's Talking to the Moon] is a timely book, beautifully written, and one that can be enjoyed just for its flow of beautiful English. It reminds one of the writings of Thoreau with its down-to-earth philosophy, keen and intimate observation of nature. But it is also full of native American comparisons, cowboy reflections and...

(The entire section is 695 words.)

A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff (essay date 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "John Joseph Mathews's Talking to the Moon: Literary and Osage Contexts," in Multicultural Autobiography: American Lives, edited by James Robert Payne, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1992, pp. 1-31.

[An American educator and critic who specializes in Native American studies, Ruoff is the author of American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography (1990). In the following excerpt, she offers a stylistic and thematic analysis of Talking to the Moon, examining its relationship to other Native American autobiographies, its focus on Osage culture, and its similarities to Henry David Thoreau's Walden...

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Louis Owens (essay date 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Maps of the Mind: John Joseph Mathews and D'Arcy McNickle," in his Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel, University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, pp. 49-89.

[Owens is an American educator, critic, and novelist of Choctaw and Cherokee descent. In the following excerpt, he provides an overview of Sundown, concluding that the novel "depicts starkly the consequences of oil and acculturation for the Osage while simultaneously refusing to accept the familiar pattern of simple doom for the Indian."]

With the publication of Sundown in 1934, the mixedblood Osage writer John Joseph Mathews introduced the modern American Indian novel, laying...

(The entire section is 5200 words.)