The characters in Let Me Breathe Thunder are described in simple, direct language. The hard-nosed Step fights his desires and often acts kindly. His affection for Ed and Hi Boy is subtle, in contrast to his tough exterior. He keeps an old dog tail for good luck. Step wants to be good, but his basic desires and economic conditions prove his undoing. With no past and no future, Step lives for the moment.
Ed is the narrator and principal character. He tells his tale in plain, everyday English. He does not reveal his age, background, or family history. Ed and Step live for the road. As traveling buddies, they share a past of trains and jobs and an affection stronger than any in the novel. At one time they had a dog named Butch that was killed by a train. They are irresponsible and happy until they run into Hi Boy, a Mexican boy whose family has been arrested for breaking into a train to steal food. Hi Boy tries to fit into their wandering life, but Step thinks the boy is not tough enough to make it on the road.
Ed, Step, and Hi Boy go to Sampson’s farm and confront the issues of family, work, and responsibility they had neglected for so long. Sampson’s loneliness is relieved by the presence of the boys, and Step and Ed fall into a routine. Anna falls for Step and shatters the calm. Step is torn between sexual desire and fear of commitment to Anna. Ed gets Step to promise to leave Anna alone, but Step breaks his promise. After sleeping with Anna, Step wants to flee immediately but stays to get his paycheck and meet his fate. Anna sneaks away from the house and...
(The entire section is 652 words.)