The world of the novel is the mind of Muldrow, so the importance of any character is determined by his or her relation to Muldrow’s journey and thoughts. Each is used to define Muldrow’s character. A newcomer to his flight crew, for example, prompts Muldrow to explain the need for careful preparation. Readers see how skilled he is in survival techniques, how methodical and focused he is. The encounter with the old samurai warrior reveals Muldrow’s superior instincts and skill with a knife. The native hunters in Hokkaido demonstrate the universality of human depravity, especially in their treatment of animals. Each character reveals something important about Muldrow.
Muldrow was reared in Alaska and as a child was taught by his father to hunt and shoot a gun; his favorite survival tools are a knife and a piece of flint for making fire. He has the instincts and skills of a ruthless, methodical killer who feels spiritually akin not only to the lynx, wolverine, and fisher marten but also to trees, rocks, wind, and clouds. His journey through Japan is more than a flight to safety; it is a spiritual quest for fulfillment. The farther north he goes, the closer he comes to his physical death and spiritual birth, or transformation. The mystical experiences he encounters in his journey sometimes appear to be the hallucinations of a madman, but the final portrait is that of a loner who has escaped not only Japan but also human existence, merging with the...
(The entire section is 450 words.)