Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

St. Xavier

St. Xavier. Mission town in western Montana’s Sniél-emen Valley. It is also the name of the church and boarding school where Indian children are trained by Roman Catholic nuns and priests. Like the real Montana mission town of St. Ignatius, in which D’Arcy McNickle was born, St. Xavier is on the Flathead Indian Reservation and was created to convert the Indians to Christianity. Its church has an air of grandeur given to it by the hovels that are set against it. Both the church and the school play important roles in the novel as places in which Indians are educated in Western values, with various levels of success. Mike and Narcisse, nephews of Archilde Leon, run away from the school to hide out in the mountains.

Max Leon’s ranch

Max Leon’s ranch. Ranch built up by Archilde’s father, a prosperous Spanish immigrant to Montana. Archilde develops a fondness for the ranch, even as he thinks of leaving it. He would like to be able to take with him its evening sounds and smells. Max’s house is as well furnished as any white man’s house, but Catherine, his Indian wife, lives apart from him in a nearby dirt-roofed cabin. Contrasts between these two houses reflect the divide between the white world and the Indian world. Although they are still married, Max and Catherine live differently and have different experiences. Max’s life revolves around cultivation of his land and the profit he derives from it. Catherine, meanwhile, is undergoing a gradual, inexorable return to the beliefs and rituals of her Salish people.


Mountains. The Sniél-emen Valley is enclosed by the Bitter Root Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. These mountains have unspoiled natural areas that are...

(The entire section is 734 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The version of The Surrounded published in 1936 shows McNickle to be absolutely in control of his language, a point made by Birgit...

(The entire section is 1437 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

McNickle makes significant use of the oral tradition, especially the traditional narrative genres of local legend, tall tale, personal...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

D'Arcy McNickle (1904-1977) was an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of Montana, an anthropologist, historian...

(The entire section is 1347 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

McNickle is now acknowledged as one of the originators of modern Native-American literature, but only two Native-American writers preceded...

(The entire section is 107 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

McNickle's novel for young people, Runner in the Sun: A Story of Indian Maize (1954, 1987), is rich in information about native...

(The entire section is 557 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bevis, William. “Native American Novels: Homing In.” In Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature, edited by Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982. A very helpful introduction to Native American narrative structures. Discusses The Surrounded in the context of other recent Native American novels.

Oaks, Priscilla. “The First Generation of Native American Novelists.” MELUS (Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States) 5 (1978): 57-65. Surveys several Native American novels of the 1930’s, and discusses McNickle in that context.

Parker, Dorothy R. Singing an Indian Song: A Biography of D’Arcy McNickle. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. A very thorough biography, including photographs as well as some literary discussion. Useful in light of the highly autobiographical nature of The Surrounded.

Purdy, John Lloyd. Word Ways: The Novels of D’Arcy McNickle. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1990. Takes an especially anthropological point of view and includes, in an appendix, several Salish oral stories which are a useful supplement to The Surrounded.

Ruppert, James. D’Arcy McNickle. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1962. Provides biographical information and discusses McNickle’s novels as well as his ethnographic writings.

Wiget, Andrew. Native American Literature. Boston: Twayne, 1985. One of the most readily available general histories of Native American writing by a reputable scholar. Includes some discussion of McNickle.