What are three traits of Harlen Bigbear in Medicine River and how does King convey them?

Quick answer:

Three important traits of Harlen Bigbear are loyalty, a positive outlook, and sociability. Throughout the novel, Harlen remains a steadfast friend to Will. His optimism and positivity help Will gain confidence in his abilities. Harlen’s curiosity about other people’s lives is combined with his ability to get along with all kinds of people.

Expert Answers

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When Will Sampson decides to return to Medicine River and live there, his friendship with Harlen Bigbear helps him adjust. It is one of the elements that has carried through from his childhood, and he knows that Harlen is both trustworthy and well connected. As Will grows more comfortable in town, his friendship with Harlen also deepens.

Loyalty goes hand in hand with honesty as key elements of Harlen’s personality: he understands that others can trust him only if he is truthful with them. Thomas King shows Harlen as a loyal friend concerned for Will’s long-term happiness when he suggests Louise as a likely romantic partner. He further shows this loyalty through the pilgrimage the men make together to Little Big Horn.

Harlen’s positive outlook and his sociability are two interconnected traits. Harlen is enthusiastic about trying new things, and his optimism and energy rub off on Will. He injects a tone of confidence into the unsettled situation in which Will finds himself. His positivity is a factor in his success at recruiting Will for basketball. The social, outgoing nature of the young man has proven important in his developing a large network within the community. He understands the importance of cultivating new relationships as well as deepening the existing ones.

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