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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 459

Harlen Bigbear is Will's best friend and the impetus for many of the events in the novel. He's known for being involved in everyone's lives and as a prominent—if nosy—community member. King writes that

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Harlen went to everything. He went to all the powwows. He went to all the funerals. He went to all the weddings, the births, and most of the court cases. Any time there was a gathering of two or more Indians in a hundred-mile radius of Medicine River, chances were one of them was Harlen.

Another important quote is from an exchange between Harlen and Will early in the book. It helps show how Will sees Medicine River in the wake of his mother's death. King writes:

"So, when you think you’ll be moving back home?"
"Sure. Most of us figured that, with your mother and all, you’d be coming home soon."
There was no logic in it, but my stomach tightened when Harlen said home.

It's difficult for Will to identify a home because his family was forced to leave Medicine River, since his Mom married a white man. He and his brother, James, are not considered Indian. King writes:

"We going back to the reserve?" James asked.
"Maybe," I said.
"No," said Maxwell, "you can't. You guys have to live in town cause you're not Indian any more."
"Sure we are," I said. "Same as you."
"Your mother married a white."
"Our father's dead."
"Doesn't matter." I could feel my face get hot. "We can go to the reserve whenever we want. We can get in a car and go right out to Standoff."
"Sure," said Maxwell. "You can do that. But you can't stay. It's the law."

This is one of the incidents...

(The entire section contains 459 words.)

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