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Kill Hole Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A recurring theme of Highwater's is that of the outsider in the mainstream society. In the past novels of the "Ghost Horse Cycle," the outsider has been the Native American who is forced to live in a world dominated by the white man. With Kill Hole, the outsider is expanded to include the unconventional artist and the homosexual, both of whom exist beyond the "norms" created by the dominant society. Highwater also looks at the role that myths play in the world. He contends that, in the past, the family, or tribal myth served as an anchor for people. Furthermore, myths were created to tell people who they are, where they came from, what their responsibilities are in the world, why there is evil, and how to deal with the evil. However, modern man has rationalized the myths out of existence and has left nothing in its place. Thus, in an increasingly chaotic world, people are left with nothing except their own personal myths.

Sitko Ghost Horse is truly an outsider. Divorced from his past, a homosexual, and an unconventional artist, Sitko is unable or unwilling to relate or respond to the dominant culture or to the traditional Native American cultural expressions of art, theater, poetry, and dance. He is lost. Fleeing the "sickness" in the city, Sitko drives as far as he can, starts walking, and stumbles into a Pre-Columbian desert village while the native tribe is having the ceremony of the Night of the Washing of the Hair. After being taken hostage by the Two Horn Priests, he is kept in an adobe hut and visited by Patu, the man/woman or "Lhamanaye" (man who lives as a woman), of the tribe. Only an airplane occasionally flying over the pueblo-like village tells him that he is still in the modern world.

Through his dreams and nightmares, Sitko tries to sort out the reasons for his existence; to determine who he really is and his purpose in life. As he struggles to prove his identity to the people of the village, Sitko comes to grips with his own past. Flashbacks to earlier novels and to events happening since the conclusion of I Wear the Morning Star provide memories as Sitko tries to piece together and understand his life. He remembers the strength of his grandmother Amana, his years in the welfare orphanage, the disintegration of his family, his father Jamie's murder of his mother Jemina, his father's death in a car crash, the death of his brother Reno, and then the loss of his lover Eric to the "sickness." Like his grandmother Amana in Legend Days (1984), Sitko wonders again and again why his life was spared while those that he loved died. Only as he begins to understand his personal mythology and begins to cover the walls of his prison with his art, can he begin to understand himself.

The conflict between the caregiver and the warrior is seen throughout the novel, especially in the characters of Patu and Delito. Compassionate and concerned, Patu tries to understand Sitko. Delito, however, represents power and fear. The leader of the One Horn Priests, Delito is determined to destroy Sitko. When the One Horn Priests come to kill him, Sitko realizes that "[h]atred was unshakable, but it could not destroy a person who wanted to go on living." He defies the One Horn Priests and later escapes. As he does so, he hears the fox singing the same song that it sang to Amana in Legend Days; and he sees a fox in the desert.