Character Development in Tom Whitcloud’s “Blue Winds Dancing”
Everyone has that period in their life when they attempt to find out who they are. For some people this process is a lifelong journey, while to others it is an instant realization. The narrator in “Blue Winds Dancing” is conflicted with this question throughout the short story. He struggles to find his place in the world, questioning if he has conformed to “white culture” or is still a true Native American at heart. The main character’s development is the central focus of the story, as he goes back to his primitive home from the campus where he presently resides. From the passage, it can be concluded that he accepts that his place is among the Indian people he spent his adolescence with.
In the beginning of the passage, the narrator speaks about how desperately he yearns for his home on the Indian reservation in Wisconsin. Everything distracts him while he is studying on his campus and draws him into going back. While on a stowaway locomotive ride across the country back to the place he belongs, he paints a beautiful picture of the familiar sights he encounters, and criticizes the society that white men have created. Evidently the narrator does not agree with the way people are expected to behave. This is one of the first signs that he is unlike his Caucasian counterparts, as he seems to relate more to the way “bums and outcasts” lead their lives. They appear more free to him than those living in the cities, craving material possessions, such as suits, cars, and decorations. However, it is his belief that their homelessness and hunger is the price they pay for being rebels who choose this unconventional lifestyle. Closer to his destination, he begins to worry that those on his reservation will no longer accept him. Upon arrival in the town nearby his original abode, he spends what little money he has to buy his family holiday gifts. As night falls he begins his final hike, homeward bound. It seems as though he is passing through an invisible forcefield into another land or time where none of the worries of the “white society” he was originally residing in exist.
Walking along the reader understands that the narrator is achieving a peace from within that was nonexistent or at the very least was buried deep inside his lost soul. The things around him, like the snow hanging from the pines or tracks from deer and hares, remind him of who he was before becoming a scholar. Hearing the drums in the distance, it is evident that he is no longer in the world he was before. He equates their rhythm to the heartbeat of the world, and the reader continues to sense a spiritual reawakening happening with each unfamiliar occurrence. Once he reaches the village, the reader learns that he is not ashamed of this mundane place or its peculiar inhabitants, unlike the white men who would not be satisfied with such a simple spot. These people are inside their small homes with family members singing and enjoying each others company, not fretting over possessions or decorations like the white couple he had seen earlier in the story.
Inside the cabin he finds the same family he had left behind for school long before. The culture he has grown accustomed to forced him to fear the questions and concerns his father and family would have. This is not the case for these people, as his brother wrestles him and sister saves even saves the scraps of his modest present for further use. The father he had worried about in his mind was not the parent he finds inside the home. This fellow embraces him with loving arms and can sense exactly why his boy has returned to this place, sending him on his way and assuring him he will not be far behind. Finally, he descends up a path to a gathering hall filled with his people, beating the drums, dancing, and congregating in a way that seems odd to the reader. The protagonist only feels discomfort for a moment when he notices no one talking to him and gathering together in their small groups. He has finally come to the realization there is no remnants of the outside civilization here, these people are simple. They are not here to share secrets or spread negativity, but only to share love and spread positivity. The “white culture” and lectures from professors have distorted our main character’s memory and made him worry about things that his people did not actually trouble over.
Throughout the story we see this man gradually change. In the beginning he is a scholar, busy seeking knowledge of the civilized world around him. The first sign of his awakening is near the halfway point, when he is transformed into a what most people would consider to be a hobo, hopping train cars and sleeping in foreign places. To anyone “civilized” these people are outcast, but to him they are free. Free from the restrictions and stigmas society places on what is “right and wrong”. His ultimate realization comes when he encounters the village that made him who is truly is. He accepts that these people, regardless of how dissimilar they are from societal norms, are who he is. Our narrator is unlike the white men he speaks of who determine how society should operate. We see this through many of his thoughts and actions, including his acceptance of the woman under the ice being true, and the fact that no talking was needed to communicate the feeling that hung in the air of the dance gathering. Our main character was fighting an internal battle that everyone encounters at some point. Thankfully, his true self shined through the darkness of the society that was bogging him down, as he rightfully determined his heart belonged with the people of his Native American tribe.