Themes and Meanings
The opening sentence, “The problem is to make the story,” indicates at once that this will be no ordinary tale, centering on character and plot. Instead, Rudy Wiebe’s story is about writing a story. It is also a story about the death of a rebellious young Indian who stole a cow and killed a police officer, but that story’s main use is as illustration for the larger story: the artist’s struggle to transmute the cold facts of history into the elements of fiction, a story that must nevertheless render the truth of what happened.
It all starts with gathering the facts. There are the names of the star players and the supporting cast on the fringes. There are proclamations, notices, descriptions, and pictures. There is a piece of white bone from the skull of Almighty Voice in a glass showcase. Another glass showcase holds the rifle he used, its upkeep noticeably neglected in contrast with the lacquered and varnished cannon standing close by. There are the gravestones of those who died in action, though the burial place of the Indians is unknown. Also, there is the place, Minnechinas Hills, where it happened. Assembling these facts seems simple enough. However, facts, rubbing against one another, rarely remain inert. Even facts from a hundred years ago have a way of acquiring human significance. They have a way of rubbing off on the writer as well, of drawing in the human agent who tries to assemble them into the elements of a story.
(The entire section is 564 words.)