Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King Explicatory Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Dec 20th, 2019

The fundamentals of the novel

When speaking about the book Green Grass, Running Water written by Thomas King, I would like to consider some fundamentals of the novel.

So, first of all, I would like to point out that the author “begins to extricate his characters’ lives from the domination of the invader’s discourses by weaving their stories into both Native American oral traditions and into revisions of some of the most damaging narratives of domination and conquest” (Cox 221). However, this fact is difficult to accept, as the so-called traditional Western discourse does not support the aspect.

Generally, the novel Green Grass, Running Water, which appeared in the early nineties, seems to be the reflection of distinctive features between both Native and Western realities. On the other hand, one is to keep in mind that fluctuating plot themes are also discovered in the novel. King’s novel is recognized to be a perfect example of cultural perceptions.

The symbolic meaning of the main character

The most essential issues the author wants to draw his readers’ attention to are the transformative capacities of people and language. To my mind, the style of the writer is really unique, as the author provides his readers with an opportunity to find their own answers to important questions. For instance, King’s use of repetitions is of particular significance, as this language device shows the importance of people’s moral values.

“Where did the water come from? Said Alberta.

Where did the water come from? Said Patrolman Delano.

Where did the water come from? Said Sergeant Cereno.

Where did the water come from? Said Lionel” (King 104).

The quotation explains that it is not important whether people can find an answer to the question or no; on the contrary, the author shows that people are ready to accept the unknown reality. A sense of cohesion seems to have a symbolic meaning in relation to this example.

Generally, the author describes the lives of five Blackfoot Indians, whose existence is disclosed in unusual manner; thus, King’s novel combines comical, cosmic, and coincidental elements. The most interesting character, however, which I would like to analyze in detail, is a university professor Alberta.

In my opinion, Alberta is not a strong character, although she is the main one. A university professor is considered to be a positive character, as she possesses a strong female intuition and innate charm.

However, the fact that the main character is in love with two men, gives us an opportunity to suppose that her intentions are not serious. On the one hand, it seems that Alberta’s situation is rather funny; however, on the other hand, it is obvious that the woman has no will power, as she wants to have children, but cannot resolve her inner conflicts. For this reason, one can make a conclusion that Alberta’s story is considered to be a drama.

Taking into account the main character’s worldview, it becomes obvious that one of the key themes the author highlights is considered to be independence. The need for balance is recognized to be one of the primary issues Alberta is to think about. Thus, it is also necessary to state that through this need, King shows what important issues modern Native North Americans face.

Alberta’s dissatisfaction with her life gives us an opportunity to suppose that another key theme of the novel seems to be the concept of self-discovery. The woman is honest and intelligent; however, her desire to be independent has led her to keep both men at a distance. In other words, it is evident that the key reason of Alberta’s unhappy life is her unwillingness to lose herself in Charlie and Lionel.

In my opinion, Alberta’s cynicism and some unrealistic romantic visions reflect her inner contradictions and the conflict of the mind. On the other hand, it also seems that the author wants to highlight important criticism of government action. So, Alberta is considered to be the so-called symbolic character, as she is a reflection of all complicated issues in the novel. For instance, Alberta says:

You know the tribe isn’t going to make a cent off that dam. And what about all

that waterfront property on the new lake […] What happened to all those lots

that the band was supposed to get? […] You know that the tribe isn’t going

to make any money off the entire deal (King 116-117).

The conclusion. The symbol of the traditional struggle

Generally, one is to keep in mind that the novel Green Grass, Running Water combines two plots. On the one hand, the author depicts the so-called quasi-realistic events; on the other hand, he describes the myth of world creation.

The novel discloses numerous complicated issues, which are extremely important for Native North Americans. One of the main characters – Alberta reflects the traditional nature of the struggle between two opposite forces. Alberta’s doubts and inner conflict have a symbolic meaning in King’s novel.

Works Cited

Cox, James H. “All This Water Imagery Must Mean Something: Thomas King’s Revisions of Narratives of Domination and Conquest in Green Grass, Running Water,” Lincoln, NE, American Indian Quarterly 24.2: 2000. Print.

King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water, New York, NY, Bantam Books: 1994. Print.




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