VIEWS: 67 PAGES: 8 POSTED ON: 5/13/2010
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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