Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 237

Shaman Winter by Rudolfo Anaya is the fourth installment of a quartet of novels set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Like the other three novels, the most recurring theme of Shaman Winter is the duality between past and present; magic and reality; good and evil.

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The antagonist of the story—a shaman and political extremist—represents the single-mindedness of evil. As a political terrorist, the antagonist believes that the end justifies the means. As an evil shaman—called a "skinwalker" in Navajo culture—he shape-shifts into a raven, which is a bird that is associated with omens in various cultures.

The duality of the past and present is illustrated most notably when the shaman tries to enter the protagonist's dream to murder his ancestors, which will delete the protagonist from history. The other theme of the book, along with the rest of the quartet, is the ethnographic examination of Native American and Mexican American cultures in the Southwest region of the United States.

The entire premise of the novel itself stems from Navajo folklore. Another theme of the book is the process of spiritual transformation. Sonny, the protagonist, fights the shaman in alternative realities, such as dreams, or in another plane of existence. In fact, much of the narrative in the book emphasizes the dream realm of Sonny. By going back and forth between the duality of dreamworld and reality, Sonny metamorphosed into a kind of shaman himself.

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