Michael Horse: An older member of the Osage tribe, Horse is a foreteller and watches over the tribe’s sacred eternal fire. He writes down the history of the Osage people and tries to piece together the murders that have occurred. He feels very connected with nature and eventually goes to live among the Hill Indians to achieve greater understanding of the events in Watona.

Belle Graycloud: The matriarch of the Graycloud family and a prominent figure in the tribe, Belle lives on a farm in Watona. She raises her friend Lila Blanket's daughter Grace and, after Grace’s murder, takes in her daughter Nola. Throughout the novel, she is personally affected by the discovery of oil and the subsequent murders and disappearances. Belle is deeply spiritual and in one instance camps out in Sorrow Cave to stop hunters from shooting the sacred bats within. When a suspected oil deposit is discovered under Belle’s allotment, Jess Gold attempts to murder her. She survives, however, and goes into hiding among the Hill Indians, only returning once Hale is on trial for murder. At the end of the novel, she is forced to flee Watona with the rest of her family.

Moses Graycloud: Married to Belle, Moses is a quiet but strong man. He stands up to the Indian Agency when they reduce the royalty payments for full-blood Indians but wisely backs off before he is declared legally incompetent. He is one of several people who write to the US government, urging them to investigate the murders of wealthy Indians. Moses kills his brother-in-law, John Tate, after discovering that Tate has murdered his sister, Ruth Graycloud. Realizing that Tate was a member of Hale’s gang, Moses evacuates his family from the house just in time to save them from the bomb that destroys their home. Moses and his family leave Watona before he can be arrested for killing Tate.

Ruth Graycloud: Moses’s twin sister. She is married to a white man named John Tate but seems quite unhappy in her marriage. Belle observes that Ruth probably married out of loneliness rather than affection. Ruth is shot by her husband at the end of the novel.

John Tate: Ruth Graycloud’s white husband. Ruth’s brother, Moses, has never really warmed up to John Tate and suspects that Tate and Ruth have an unhappy marriage. Tate is very fond of taking photos. Eventually, it is revealed that he has been working with Hale and he shoots Ruth. He is then shot and killed by Moses Graycloud.

Lila Blanket: A river prophet from the Hill Indian settlement. Sensing that the river is in danger, she leaves her daughter Grace to be raised by her friend Belle Graycloud. Lila intended for Grace to become a bridge between the Hill Indians and the modern life in Watona. Eventually, she sends her other two daughters, Sara and Molene, to live with Grace.

Grace Blanket: Lila Blanket’s daughter who was raised by Belle Graycloud. Her allotment of land sits on top of the deepest oil vein in town, making her the wealthiest person in Watona. She has one daughter, Nola, but does not reveal who the father is. She is largely uninterested in the culture and traditions of the Hill Indians and prefers to use her oil money to live an opulent life of material comfort. She is murdered by Hale and his confederates at the beginning of the novel.

Sara Blanket: Grace’s sister and Benoit’s wife. Her marriage with Benoit is one of convenience—an arrangement understood by the rest of the tribe—and she does not object at all to Benoit’s romantic relationship with Lettie Graycloud. She is killed when her house is blown up. Benoit is wrongfully accused of murdering her.

Nola: Grace’s only daughter and the heir to Grace’s enormous fortune. As a child, she always felt a spiritual connection to nature that Grace did not. Nola witnesses her mother’s death and the Grayclouds take her in, fearing for her life. She remains in shock for a long time after her mother's murder and the event forever alters her personality. She is eventually sent away to school, where she is rebellious and difficult. Mr. Forrest is assigned to be the guardian over her fortune until she comes of age, though she mistrusts him greatly. Mr. Forrest’s son, Will, falls in love with Nola and she agrees to marry him even though she is only thirteen. After their elaborate wedding, Nola and Will move into a grand house and she becomes pregnant. Increasingly fearful and paranoid that Will and his father will eventually kill her for her inheritance, Nola snaps and murders Will. She flees to the Hill Indian settlement where she delivers her baby, a daughter.

Louise Graycloud: Daughter of Moses and Belle Graycloud and wife of Floyd. She initially is not very interested in her heritage but eventually rejects white culture completely after seeing the suffering of the people of Watona at the hands of white Americans.

(The entire section is 2081 words.)

Mean Spirit The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Belle Graycloud is established very early on as the matriarchal figure in the novel, and her ties to the people, the traditions, and the earth make her a vital character in the development of the novel’s theme. She is compared to Lila Blanket, the river prophet of the Hill people, who, the reader is told, is a powerful matriarch of the Hill settlement. While Lila nurtures the Hill settlement, Belle nurtures the town of Watona. Lila trusts Belle with her only child, Grace, who Lila hopes will learn the ways of the white people and help to save the Hill settlement. Lila is the biological mother of Nola, and Belle becomes the nurturing mother of the believed savior of the people. Though Grace does not follow in her mother’s footsteps, Nola—in essence, granddaughter to both women—will prove to be a river prophet, a fact suggested by her understanding of the water’s messages near the end of the novel. Faithfully, Belle follows the traditions of her heritage. She performs the corn ceremony during planting season while other Indians use fertilizer; she wears traditional clothing and practices traditional medicine. She also protects and communes with the sacred animals of the earth—eagles, bats, buffalo, and bees—proving a vigilant warrior when these animals are threatened or desecrated. Hogan’s characterization of Belle works to unite the earth, the people, and their traditions. When the traditions are not observed and the earth and its animals are injured,...

(The entire section is 452 words.)

Mean Spirit Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Belle Graycloud

Belle Graycloud, a tribal leader of the Osage people and matriarch of the Graycloud family. She lives with her family on a farm in Watona, Oklahoma, is well schooled in tribal medicine, and keeps bees. Her peaceful life is disrupted when white businessmen swindle Indians out of their oil-rich land and murder them. Belle makes a courageous stand against the local authorities at Sorrow Cave, where she protests the shooting of sacred bats by townspeople. When John Hale and his partners discover oil on her land, she is shot by Jess Gold and left for dead. She survives, and the Indian community stages a mock funeral to protect her. Belle goes into hiding among the elusive Hill people. She later returns to her family just before Hale is convicted of theft and murder.

Moses Graycloud

Moses Graycloud, Belle’s husband and Osage elder. Although quiet and less flamboyant than his wife, Moses is an outspoken leader. When government officials try to cheat him and other Indians out of their government allotments, Moses bravely objects, but to no avail. As a result of his reduced income, Moses must sell his prize horse and other items to support his family. When sacred eagles are slaughtered for their feathers, Moses writes letters of protest to President Warren Harding and also informs him of the murders of oil-rich Indians. He staunchly supports Belle at Sorrow Cave. When his house is bombed, Moses kills his brother-in-law, who is a member of Hale’s gang.

Michael Horse

Michael Horse, a seer and keeper of the eternal fire of the Osage tribe. He is the last person in the territory to live in a tepee but one of the first to own a car. Michael is the tribal historian and keeps a personal diary as well. His quest to capture Benoit’s horse, Redshirt, leads him to the Hill settlement, where he continues his work on the history of his people.

Grace Blanket

Grace Blanket, one of the Hill...

(The entire section is 818 words.)