Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 444

The two protagonists of Sacred Clowns are once again Hillerman's Navajo policemen. Officer Jim Chee and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. In this novel, however, they now work together in the new Special Investigations Office on the Navajo Reservation, Leaphorn, the older and more analytical of the two, is now Chee's immediate...

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The two protagonists of Sacred Clowns are once again Hillerman's Navajo policemen. Officer Jim Chee and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. In this novel, however, they now work together in the new Special Investigations Office on the Navajo Reservation, Leaphorn, the older and more analytical of the two, is now Chee's immediate supervisor. Various conflicts arise between them. Leaphorn attempts to force Chee to be more thorough in his reports and less impulsive in his methods. Chee resents Leaphorn's control, especially when the lieutenant assigns him to find a runaway Navajo boy rather than to a more important case. As the novel progresses, however, the two men come to understand each other. Leaphorn not only recognizes that he himself was impulsive when he was Chee's age, but he also experiences paternal feelings for the younger man.

The novel provides both Chee and Leaphorn with romantic interests. Chee's relationship with Janet Pete reaches fruition as they work out their cultural differences, and their relationship grows from friendship to love. Although a city Indian by background, Pete comes to view herself as Navajo and to appreciate Chee's traditionalism. Chee works through his concerns with traditional Navajo incest taboos based on the complexities of Navajo clan relationships and accepts Pete as a possible wife. Leaphorn in the mean time continues dealing with the death of his wife and his new relationship with Professor Louisa Bourebonette, a folklorist at Northern Arizona University. Both men come to accept the women as lovers only by undergoing important changes. Chee must slightly compromise his desire to be a traditional Navajo while at the same time being a cop, and Leaphorn must leave off grieving for his dead wife in order to accept Louisa as his new love.

Three significant white characters represent different attitudes toward Native Americans and their territories. Asher Davis, an Indian trader, is known for his fairness in business dealings with Native Americans. He has a reputation, undeserved it turns out, as an honest trader who pays Native Americans high prices for artifacts. His best friend from high school, Roger Applebee, is a lawyer and environmentalist, a leader of Nature First, an organization working to prevent the turning of Jacks Wild Mine into a toxic dump. Ed Zeck, another lawyer and one of Janet Pete's former bosses, works for a Washington, D.C., firm. An expert on Pueblo water rights and land claims, he regularly lobbies tribal council meetings to achieve political ends. He has gone into the cattle business with Navajo Councilman Jimmy Chester, and, like Chester, Zeck supports the Jacks Wild Mine project. The three men represent different ways that the white establishment influence events in Indian Country.

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