The novel’s protagonist is David Larson, an alienated young man in search of a purpose. Some reviewers expressed concern that the main character is not an African American, as was the case in the author’s first novel Suder (1983); Everett, however, seems to be avoiding the issue of racial identity for the sake of creating a generalized portrait of displacement.
The reader must look to sources in Western literature for some clue as to authorial intention in regard to the creation and development of this character. At one point in the narrative, David spends time at his desk reading a copy of The Virginian (1902) by American author Owen Wister. In Wister’s novel, the first serious fictional treatment of the American cowboy, the title character makes a place for himself in the town of Sunk Hole, Wyoming. Like David, the Virginian becomes one with the people and the landscape of his adopted state, and he must face a difficult moral decision when he participates in the hanging of a cattle rustler who had been his friend. As in The Virginian, the setting of Walk Me to the Distance underscores the main character’s development and defines the community that he encounters.
The landscape of Wyoming is depicted as a living presence. Having himself worked on a sheep ranch, Everett knows the country he describes. For example, in the pivotal sermon from which David derives so much consolation after the lynching, the minister asserts, “The thing about this country is—well, it’s relentless. It doesn’t let up. It goes on and on, with this enormous sky for a face.” Furthermore, the minister makes a connection between the land and its inhabitants by arguing that the people need to trust the land: “We have no choice. We are alone here.”
This sense of collective identity, which one character summarizes by saying...
(The entire section is 769 words.)