Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Winter in the Blood is a psychological self-portrait, the record of its first-person narrator’s attempts to comprehend and endure tragic loss. The other characters who populate the world of the novel become foils for the exploration of one individual’s mental life and the cultural legacy this existence reflects.

Several times the narrator speaks of creating distance between himself and his psychological demons. He is aware that he must heal himself, but he almost always undertakes disastrously wrong courses of treatment. He attempts to stem the grief that has flooded through him since the deaths of his father and brother by escaping his boyhood home for towns and bars. His appetites are dangerous tools. Drinking leads inevitably to fighting or to debilitating sexual encounters, or both, and leaves the narrator in the bruised, defeated state in which the reader first encounters him. His self-destructive personal life does not keep him from thinking of his dead father and brother. As the young Blackfeet man begins to tell his tragic stories, the reader has the sense that the narrator’s excursions into memory are as unstoppable as his forays into town.

Further complicating the situation is the issue of the narrator’s faulty memory. Teresa remembers events differently from her son, and her versions make it hard for the narrator to revere First Raise, to think of his father as a hero. He has known his grandmother’s story for so...

(The entire section is 517 words.)


(Novels for Students)


The narrator is in an alienated state of mind, closed off from his own emotions. He does not feel...

(The entire section is 779 words.)