At no point does Frank Waters provide a police-blotter description of his protagonist, Martiniano. The reader comes to appreciate Martiniano through his bold actions and sharply reasoned speeches, like the one in which he defends his killing of the deer to the Council. After explaining that the Council slowed him down by refusing to let him use the communal threshing machine, he concludes: “What is the difference between killing a deer on Tuesday or Thursday? Would I not have killed it anyway?” Later, when Palemon applies the fifteen lashes, Martiniano submits stoically, even though the pain is excruciating. Yet he can feel tenderness, too. After Flowers Playing becomes pregnant, Martiniano matures into a kind of inarticulate poet, recording but not enunciating the beauty of his little mountain retreat: “The yellow moon low over the desert, the stars twinkling above the tips of the high ridge pines, the fireflies, the far-off throb of a drum, the silence, the tragic, soundless rushing of the great world through time—it caught at his breath, his heart.”
Flowers Playing, by contrast, is presented with photographic clarity. She is the Arapahoe maiden: “Have you ever seen an Arapahoe maiden down in the willows by the stream? The fresh, cool dew clinging like Navajo-silver buttons to her plain brown moccasins, the first arrows of sunlight glancing off the shining wings of her blue-black hair, the flush of dawn still in her smooth brown cheeks?” She becomes an Earth Mother, taming two wild...
(The entire section is 618 words.)