Marietta Wetherill

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

From her childhood with her Quaker parents, to her seemingly practical marriage to Mr. Wetherill (she never called him Richard), to her two encounters with Geronimo, and her daily, sometimes wrenching, sometimes joyous life living beside the Navajos, Marietta Wetherill is a feisty and compassionate heroine. Marrying a man much older than herself, she supports his wanderings and excavations until his death. She does not pursue the political ramifications of Richard Wetherill’s murder at the hands of a Navajo; instead, she continues to live among them, to be their friends, while bringing to trial the one man who shot her husband.

Marietta’s account focuses on life. She describes her first journey to Mesa Verde, where the water leaped rather than flowed, where it looked like whipped cream. She saw and felt the intense life in the natural world she claimed as her own. She admits to knowing how to answer a male coyote as if she were his mate. From a medicine man, she learns of the electricity that makes people alive; when a person dies, the spark leaves the body and enters space again.

She learns to live among the strange rules of the Navajo, keeping their secrets as if she were one of them—which she essentially was. During the course of this unfolding story, Marietta measured caves and took notes when an expedition went to Grand Gulch to excavate mummies. She tells this story with unflinching detail, describing the coverings made of turkey...

(The entire section is 554 words.)