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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 472

In his childhood, Chal’s farm chores occupy much of his time (chapter 1). At the same time, he has a rich imaginative life, alternating easily between the “world of reality” and the “world of fantasy” in which he becomes one of the Indian braves of the past.

If he were...

(The entire section contains 472 words.)

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In his childhood, Chal’s farm chores occupy much of his time (chapter 1). At the same time, he has a rich imaginative life, alternating easily between the “world of reality” and the “world of fantasy” in which he becomes one of the Indian braves of the past.

If he were riding he would wheel his pony and dash off through the trees; the stiff, tough arms of the blackjacks catching at his clothing if he did not manage to dodge them by lying flat on the back of the pony or clinging to its side as he raced; enemies in pursuit of a fleeing brave. . . . At such times he would become a scout creeping into the camp of the enemy; leading the pony cautiously over the second growth oaks and slipping and sliding over the clay.

As he grows older, oil leases and allotment are changes that come to the reservation (chapter 5). The involvement of Chal’s father, John, turns out to be not just futile but hazardous. After John returns from the Council trip to Washington, he reveals that he and his associates have been kicked off the Council.

At dinner his father ate very little. Suddenly he looked at Chal. "Son, your father has been branded by the guv'mint as a traitor. . . . they kicked us off the Council—they wanted the Reservation Oil company to have the leases." John looked at Chal intently for a moment, then said, "Don't you believe your father's a traitor to nobody."

Chal visualizes the "guv'mint" as a great, bearded patriarch, a giant that he should try to avoid.

As Oklahoma becomes a state, oil is discovered and the resulting boom brings both prosperity and ruin. Chal grows up and heads off to the university, missing his home and finding the city’s red brick buildings ugly. His inner conflicts about assimilation, or "remaining in step," become bound up with his feelings that the buildings are "not beautiful."

He would not have dared suggest his thoughts to anyone; it would have been like a sacrilege and certainly unpatriotic. One believed in his country and his state, and accepted the heroics of the race for land in the new territory . . . He almost despised himself for the feeling deep within him which deeply remonstrated. He kept this feeling subdued; kept it from bubbling up into the placid waters of his consciousness . . .

The novel follows Chal through college, where he later wishes he had no Indian blood, and leaving for service in World War I. Serving in the air corps for Chal combines the attraction of the most modern technology, American patriotism in joining the war effort, his younger sense of self as a warrior, and an identification with mythical Osage traditions. As he decides to enlist, he thinks: "I shall fly through the air like a bird."

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