Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 358

Muriel Gray explores the theme of individual and collective identity formation by focusing on Native Americans (First Nations people) in Canada. She uses the idea of the Trickster to show the harmful effects of continuing uncritically to follow tradition but even more so of assimilating to the dominant culture. The classical theme of the hero’s journey is developed in Sam Hunt’s progress from a fearful, negative, critic of Native culture to a man who understands his complex role among two different societies. Another key theme is respect for the powerful forces that join nature and the supernatural, as embodied in the several shaman, or healer, characters that form Sam’s paternal family legacy. The theme of paternal responsibility arises as he acts on behalf of his son. Sam makes his own decisions along the way, but the author also suggests a theme of taking charge in one’s own rendezvous with destiny.

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Sam Hunt had rejected Native culture so far as to change his last name by shortening Hunting Wolf to Hunt. Thus he had broken with the wolf character that was meaningful to his forebears. He lives within white society, taking care of a ski resort, and has convinced himself that the customs and rituals of his people do not relate to his life. Sam does not go seeking to renew his role, or that of his son Billy, in the Native ways. Instead, when the Trickster figure escapes from captivity, Sam is forced into difficult choices—or, perhaps, those choices were already made for him at the supernatural level. As he realizes the importance of his role as a father, in caring for a child who seems to possess shamanic attributes, he connects to his role in a chain of gifted visionaries and healers. Sam comes to understand the difficulties his grandfathers faced in opting to help put away a vicious killer—one who, now unleashed on the world again, has resumed killing. The Wolf of his name is the same as that of the mountain where he must face, and conquer, the Trickster, ensuring the safe future of his child and their culture.

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Characters