TCG'S Thematic Outline of the Novel


Last Updated: 6/17/08



[cumulative table for rest of the semester]


BIO notes: James Welch (1940-2003)
*–Montana Blackfeet/Gros Ventre [GROH VAHNT (group of Arapaho)]; also Irish!–ergo "mixed blood," à la Jim Loney!
*–one of the "1st generation" of NatAmer Renaissance (with Momaday, Silko, Vizenor)
*–1st 2 novels: Winter in the Blood (1974), The Death of Jim Loney (1979)–"two of the dreariest novels ever written"!?
*–later, Fools Crow (1986; American Book Award); Killing Custer (1994; in conjunction with 1992 PBS documentary)
*–Kenneth Lincoln on Welch (Sing with the Heart of the Bear 261-262): it's "clear what James Welch is stereotypically not: a new-age, born-again scout who runs conferences on wellness or conducts vision quests for a small fee. . . . Nor is Welch an eco-poet with feel-good fairy tales about Grandfather Eagle or Grandmother Spider [Hogan/Silko?!]. . . . James Welch is not a buckskin warrior in headdress, but a blue-jeaned, fiftyish man in horn-rimmed glasses with a definite writer's squint. He's not an AIMster gone Hollywood [Russell Means!], a chief on the take, but a member of the Montana State Parole Board, a lifetime writer and sometime teacher, a husband. He's not a "holy man" or a medicine person who can cure cancer, but a poet-novelist with a sharp eye for scams, a quick tongue in print, a heart that's been broken more than once by self-delusion [JL!], and a flint-rough mind to keep things as straight as possible. . . ."
* The Death of Jim Loney–MOTIFS & "THEMES"
    *—CHAPTER ONE (1-2): Given the title and what you know from the novel so far, what specifics in that apparently strange, much-ado-about-nothing chapter might be considered FORESHADOWING? Dreary setting aside, what might the initial Bible quot. ("Turn away from man") and the result of the football game foreshadow, in terms of plot and Loney's character? . . . more (obvious) FORESHADOWING: "free" (76); Hank Williams tune (82); more (& obvious) foreshadowing: 98, 108 (Ike & gun vision encore) [cf. 24]), 151, 164-165 (Kate's painting)
    ***–CANINE JIM: a SYMBOLIC MOTIF soon develops, equating Jim Loney with animals and "beasts," especially dogs and wolves. WHY? What does this "do" in terms of Jim's CHARACTERIZATION? (You might also consider the main character's NAME in this regard.) [e.g., 11(Rhea: "beast"!), 12, 18, 30, 58 ("wolfish face"), 63, 66, 67 (Kate: "beast"!), 81-82] . . . Note also his mom Eletra's later descriptions: "sleek animal" (141); "Westwolf" (142 <- her maiden/family name!? [but NO!: "Calf Looking"]) . . . Finally, the "animal" thread seems to end when JL loses even his connection with "the secret of survival" (155)–an alienation that culminates in his farewell to Rhea: ""He couldn't let himself touch her again" (156) . . . but then the stray dog accompanies him on his way to Mission Canyon (166), and he even "sees" Swipsey (167).
    **–HYBRID JIM: Rhea congratulates Jim (ironically) on his mixed-blood ancestry early on (14): "so lucky"?–she thinks (NOT!) [e.g.: 14, 99, *102*, 105]
    *–JIM'S TWO WOMEN (RHEA & KATE): two quite different women, en'it? (45, 67, 84-87). What might Welch be "saying" by making Jim "TORN" between these two women? (That is, what CHOICES do they represent?–besides Seattle and Washington, D.C.?) [e.g., 15, 26, 44 (Rhea's "secret"/"plan"); 45ff, 67; Kate's character & clothing: 62-63, 65; Kate as the "Ice Woman": 111; Kate on Native tradition: "We have no past" (91)]
    ***–A "LARGE BIRD AND DARK": keep an out eye for the possible symbolic ramifications of this bird, from its initial appearance (20) to its final flight in the novel's final sentence. [e.g.: 20, 30, (91), *104-106*, 112, 122, 140, 168, **179**]
    *–WELCH, "GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST": note the hallucinatory, expressionist (i.e., intrapsychic) nature of chapter 1.9 (22-24)
    *–JIM's MOM (ELETRA): 1st encountered in potent dream (33-34 [cf. 175]) [e.g.: 33-34, 37, *70*, 119, 139-144]
    *–"NATIVE" JIM (his "HERITAGE"): What's the significance of the description of SNAKE BUTTE? (47) (Why is it "not good to think about it"?!) [e.g.: 14, 47, *88-91*; see also Amos After Buffalo (next); see also MISSION CANYON]
        *–AMOS After Buffalo (and family): the child/the animal/Native tradition: "I live way out there" (54) [e.g.: 53-55, 102] . . . most memorable "set speech" in the novel?: moving passage about Thanksgiving & Amos (166-167)! (–if rather too didactic on Welch's part?!)
    *—"AUNT" S(ANDRA): his true "mother," emotionally speaking? his first (and only?) love? [e.g.: 19, 50-51, 88-91, 104, *133-134*, 144-146 ("white" [and association with Xmas—cf. Jim's "hybridity")]
  –So it should be JIM'S FOUR WOMEN, really, 2 contrasting (& generational) pairs of white (Rhea, Sandra) and Native (Kate, Eletra).
    *–JIM'S CANINE (Swipesy): (cf. Alexie quot. on "true" NatAmerLit & dogs!) [e.g.: 18-19, 49, 53-54, 167]
    *–PAINTER BARTHELME ("what a guy!"): main Anglo/cowboy "antagonist" (plus, often part of the "comic relief" bar scenes [e.g.: 60-62, 72-73 (& Rhea!)]
    *–DADDY IKE: [e.g.: 69ff, 78ff; and Eletra: 99-100, 133-134]
    *–MYRON PRETTY WEASEL: (former friend and) present foil to Jim (and eventual crucial plot device) [e.g.: 80-82, 95-96, 101-103, 109ff; 120: the hunting trip's climactic "kill"]
    *–XMAS as time/setting for final tragedy [e.g.: 92ff, 132]: why?!
    *—VAL MARIE (116, 121-*122*): becomes some "mythic" place for Jim, à la Rhea's "Seattle"? (Consider also the word's feminine connotations.)
    *–JIM'S "PLAN"/SUICIDE: (at first unconscious) [e.g.: 129-130, 159, 163, 176-179; use of Ike as tool in plan: 137ff, 147-148 (tells Ike NOT an "accident"!), 149, 163]
    *–"SOME SORT OF PEACE" (152) is all that Jim is seeking: see the (now ironic) epigraph to the novel.
    ***–MISSION CANYON: = Native tradition; ergo appropriate as final resting place (*178-179*)?! [e.g.: 14, *148-149*, 159 ("out there"! [cf. Amos], "on the reservation"), 167 (Christian religious associations), *168* (final ACCEPTANCE of heritage!? [I'd argue–no.])

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TCG's Thematic Outline of Jim Loney

Created: 6/17/08