Little Big Man

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					Little Big Man
By Thomas Berger
               Plot and Setting
 Takes place in the Old West
 Follows the life of Jack Crabb, a
  white raised by the Cheyenne, who
  at various times in the book is an
  Indian warrior, a Scout for General
  Custer, a con-man, a gambler, etc.,
  etc. Sort of an old West Forrest
  Gump.
 Travels back and forth between
  white society and Cheyenne, and
  gives a even-handed view of both
  cultures.
             Major Characters
   Jack Crabb- 121 year-old man
    who is narrator of story
   Old Lodge Skins- Jack’s “father”
    in the Cheyenne
   “Wild Bill” Hickock- gunslinger and
    “friend” of Jack’s
   Lesser Bear- Jack’s life-long
    enemy
   Olga- Jack’s one-time wife until
    captured by Cheyenne
   General George Custer- Famous
    general who Jack wants dead
    Main Ideas or Themes of the
               Book
  Satire of great figures in Western history, such
  as General Custer- who Berger paints as vain,
  cruel, and bull-headed or “Wild Bill” Hickock,
  who is a paranoid drunk.
 One of the first really sympathetic (yet complex)
  views of Native American culture
 Strong critique of romantic view of Old West:
  instead paints picture of crime, greed and
  cruelty.
          Contrast with Huck Finn
   Similarities:
       Voice of the narrator is very similar to
        Twain’s character
       Both are satires of middle class white
        society of mid-1800s
   Difference
       Little Big Man from the point of view
        of the dominated group, whose
        culture is treated with equal respect.
       Also, oppressed group (personified
        by Jim) portrayed as childish,
        dependant, and helpless.
        Little Big Man as Existentialist
                    Western
   Bad Faith: Jack’s innocent, Huck
    Finn-like voice (and improbable
    presence at every major event in
    Western history) severely
    undermines the seriousness (or
    even reality) of what we thought
    were historical facts. The result
    is a destruction of our “Bad Faith”
    idea of the West.
   The Gaze: Jack’s double life as a
    white and a Cheyenne offers a
    chance to examine the effects of
    both the White gaze’s effect on
    the Cheyenne and vice versa.
      Analysis of Literary Excerpt
… the human beings, my son, they believe
everything is alive. Not only man and
animals. But also water, earth, stone. ….
But the white man, they believe
EVERYTHING is dead. Stone, earth,
animals. And people! Even their own
people! If things keep trying to live, white
man will rub them out. That is the
difference.
  Old Lodge Skins, Jack Crabb’s adopted
   father- an example of the Gaze being
   reversed on the dominant White society,
   with crushing effect.
      Little Big Man as Example of Post
                Modern America
   Readers today might pause to consider how the fear and hatred
    directed at the Cheyenne in the 1800’s might be analogous to
    our current relationship to the Middle East. Many of the same
    techniques to dehumanize the enemy are present, as is
    imbalance in military power and the fundamental gap in culture.
   The difference is that now we do wrangle with cultural
    considerations and wonder about the Other’s point of view
    (sorta).

				
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posted:5/13/2010
language:English
pages:8