Readings in Literature and Culture 2
Dr. Holly Jones
Characters and Chapter Analysis
o Zits: fifteen-year-old orphan. Half Native American, half Irish. Transports through time and lives in the bodies of five other men.
▪ Hank Storm: FBI agent in the 1970’s.
∙ Art: Hank’s partner. Kills Junior, a young Native American
captured by Elk and Horse, members of IRON
▪ Indian boy: mute warrior child at the battle of Little Bighorn.
∙ Crazy Horse: let the Native American forces at the Battle of Little Bighorn
∙ Custer: commander of the U.S. Calvary who disobeyed orders and was defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn
▪ Gus: an Indian tracker for the U.S. Calvary
∙ Bow Boy: a young Native American child who is saved by Gus
and Small Saint
∙ Small Saint: young Calvary soldier, disobeys orders and saves
▪ Jimmy: a pilot who kills himself under the presence of Zits
∙ Abbad: Jimmy’s best friend, whom he taught to fly a plane. Abbad turned out to be a terrorist who crashed his plane in Chicago.
∙ Helga: Jimmy’s mistress
∙ Linda: Jimmy’s wife
▪ Zits’ father: Left Zits and his mother the day he was born to live on the streets.
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o Edgar: Native American foster father who resents Zits for beating him in a model airplane race
o Justice: boy Zits meets in jail. They live together for a while and Justice convinces Zits to commit mass murder.
o Robert: Zits’ final foster father. Officer Dave’s brother
o Mary: Zits’ final foster mother; she buys medication for his acne
o Zits’ mother: died of cancer when he was six-years-old
o Officer Dave: police officer who Zits confides in.
- Chapter Analysis:
o Chapters 1-3:
▪ Zits uses his confidence as a shield, so that the reader can know about but not understand the emotional impact of Zits’ past. If you want to learn more check out What is the united fruit company?
▪ It is obvious that the root of Zits’ problems is the absence of his father; Zits does not understand why, in all the memories of his mother and the stories she told of his father, he was unhappy enough to leave his family.
▪ Zits has conflicting feelings toward his Native American heritage; he yearns for a relationship with them, yet hates the fact that he spends time with the poor Native Americans he gets drunk with.
▪ Zits meets Justice, a seemingly perfect human being who has all the answers that Zits has been searching for. Justice symbolizes Zits’ need to achieve “justice” for his race.
▪ Zits and Justice discuss the “Ghost Dance”, a Native American tradition with the intent to bring back or bring justice for the dead. Since many Ghost Dances throughout history resulted in massacre- many who practiced were killed by the Calvary- this alludes to the massacre Zits plans to commit. If you want to learn more check out What type(s) of memory systems were affected?
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▪ Violence shows itself as the dominant theme of the story when Zits commits an act of terrorism in a Seattle bank. Alexie wrote the book so that readers would sympathize with a disturbed kid, and then made him commit mass murder in order to test the reader’s sensitivity to violence. o Chapters 4-6:
▪ Zits “wakes up” as a different person. As Hank, Zits is able to view his own thoughts from a distant point of view, as though he was reading his own story. This means that he has a better understanding of his opinions and actions without bias. Don't forget about the age old question of What is the most common drug for every ethnic group?
▪ This event makes Zits realize that good looks do not make one a good person. Hank is the epitome of what Zits wishes he looked like, but Zits soon learns that Hank is a murderer.
▪ Zits discovered that Horse and Elk, who had learned were heroes to the Native American community, were in reality traitors: an indication that Zits is learning and recognizing what he thinks is wrong and right.
▪ When Zits regrets having to shoot the dead body of Junior, the reader gets the first evidence of Zits’ transformation.
o Chapters 7-9:
▪ Zits wakes up as another person: a little Indian boy. This “waking up” hints that these experiences could merely be dreams.
▪ Zits is overjoyed at being in an Indian camp, and he thinks he finally has a complete family. This is the first time Zits admits that he wishes he could have been full-blooded Native American.
▪ Zits’ inability to speak could symbolize that, while earlier in the book he relished his emotional distance from others, now he wishes to We also discuss several other topics like What is defined as the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfil requirements?
communicate and cannot. The distance he used to appreciate now becomes a hindrance.
▪ Zits questions himself when he notices that Crazy Horse is only half Native American, and not full-blooded like Zits wants to be. He is once again realizing that not everything in life is as it appears on the surface.
▪ Zits witnesses the Natives desecrating the bodies of the dead Calvary soldiers, and while Zits respected them at first, he does not understand why this level of disrespect is necessary.
▪ At the end of this transformation, Zits refuses to kill a Calvary soldier, unlike the past two sections where he did fire a weapon. Here the reader gets an understanding of Zits’ transformation; he finally realized that he had a choice that did not always have to end in violence.
o Chapters 10-12:
▪ Zits wakes up as Gus, an old Irish man who has been given the task of leading the U.S. Calvary to a Native American camp. When Zits tries to control Gus and lead him away from the camp, he finds that Gus can overpower him with his memories of violence caused by Natives.
▪ Here Zits watches the violence unfold without taking any part in it, so he understands how the bank incident would appear to anyone outside of his perspective.
▪ By choosing to help Small Saint protect Bow Boy, Zits realizes that he always has the ability to choose to do something good rather than committing an act of violence.
o Chapters 13-15:
▪ In this section, Zits is entirely insignificant; he has no control over Jimmy and is merely a bystander to his emotions and actions. This section is extremely reminiscent of 9/11; it shows the transformation of Jimmy, first meeting someone he thought could be a terrorist simply due to his nationality, then shedding his racism and befriending the man while teaching him to pilot a plane, then finally realizing that Abbad was a terrorist all along.
∙ This shows Zits that, while he previously thought he could judge people on their race, people are more complicated that merely their heritage.
▪ Although Zits has no emotional connection with Jimmy, this section is meant to give Zits further exposure to violence, and, more importantly, the emotional effects of violence.
▪ By embodying a man who betrayed his wife, Zits realizes the importance of his betrayal toward the people in the bank.
o Chapters 16-18:
▪ At first Zits does not know whose body he inhabits, knowing only that he is a homeless, drunk, Native American man. This gives him a chance to empathize with the man without his biased opinions toward him.
▪ By learning that the man is his father, and experiencing his memories, Zits’ journey is over. The reason why his father was never part of his life was what Zits had been wondering his whole life, and now he knew the answer.
o Chapters 19-21:
▪ Back at the bank, it is obvious that Zits has learned his lesson. He looks at a mother and son with a different view that he did before- now he thinks they are beautiful whereas before he was jealous and spiteful of them.
▪ Zits earns a second chance by turning himself in to Officer Dave. He chose to avoid violence, because the violence he endured during his transformations have transformed him.
▪ After moving in with his new foster family, Zits shows that he is learning to value himself much more than before. By telling Mary his real name, Zits shows that he has embraced the possibility of a new life and a new beginning.
Readings in Literature and Culture 2
Dr. Holly Jones
Characters and Chapter Analysis
o Babamukuru: Tambu’s uncle. Headmaster of the mission school. Studied in South Africa, then England.
o Maiguru: Tambu’s aunt. Studied with Babamukuru but is not looked up to like he is because she is female.
▪ Chido: disinterested in his family; studies with white colonists, so he is used luxuries.
▪ Nyasha: outspoken, often fights with her parents. Has an eating disorder due to her negative self-image. Confides in Tambu like a sister.
o Jeremiah: Tambu’s father, Babamukuru’s brother. Survives mainly by the support of Babamukuru.
o Ma’Shingayi: Tambu’s mother. Hardworking and sympathetic to her children’s needs. Grows angry after the death of Nhamo.
▪ Nhamo: Mean older brother of Tambu. Goes to the mission to study because he is the oldest. Dies of an unknown illness.
▪ Tambudzai: Takes Nhamo’s place at the mission school, living with Babamukuru and his family. She is torn between tradition and resenting the restrictions placed on her gender.
o Lucia: Ma’Shingayi’s sister. Independent and confident. Gets a job at the mission and later gets an education there as well.
o Takesure: Jeremiah’s cousin. Helps at Jeremiah’s home after the death of Nhamo. Impregnates Lucia despite his many wives.
- Chapters Analysis:
o Chapter 1
▪ Here it is apparent that education is the only way out of poverty in 1960’s Rhodesia. Although educated, Babamukuru seems to remain humble and willing to help work on the homestead. Education treated Nhamo
differently: he resents his poverty and avoids helping his family when at all possible.
▪ It is also obvious that gender inequality is a major issue for Rhodesian society at this time. Tambu claims that Nhamo never carried his own
luggage home, expecting the young women in the family to wait on him. Nhamo even told her that she would not be able to go to school because she is a girl.
o Chapter 2
▪ Tambu’s mother says that Tambu is weighed down by “the poverty of blackness” and the “weight of womanhood”. These remain the main
themes throughout the book.
▪ When Tambu goes to town to sell her maize and a white woman gives her enough money to pay for several years of schooling, several blacks gather to watch and grow resentful. Perhaps they are ashamed that Tambu is taking charity from a snobby white woman. They are angry that white colonialism has kept the natives dependent on the white civilization.
▪ Tambu uses her grandmother’s story about Babamukuru’s success as a message of inspiration. Although her circumstances are telling her that she cannot receive an education because she is a young African girl, she interprets her story as a message of hope: that she can do anything she sets her mind to, just like Babamukuru.
o Chapter 3
▪ Tambu admires the way Babamukuru used his education to rise above his poverty and remain humble. She sees that his education gave him confidence, so he doesn’t feel the need to bully anyone like Nhamo does.
▪ Tambu is disgusted with Nyasha’s dress, saying it was too short to cover her thighs. She saw Nyasha’s apparel as a separation, believing that Nyasha, like Nhamo, resented their culture.
▪ Tambu describes the family dinner, and how the oldest men get to wash their hands first, using all the clean water, so the young women are required to use the dirty water left over. Also, the women have to prepare and serve the food for the men, and make sure they are satisfied before the women have a chance to eat. This upsets Tambu because she is realizing how little men view her gender.
▪ Nhamo is chosen to go to the mission school, and brags about it to Tambu, saying that naturally she couldn’t go to school because she is a girl. Tambu saw this as a challenge, and when he died, she was overjoyed because it meant that she got to go to the school in his place.
o Chapter 4
▪ While at the mission, Tambu begins to understand why Nhamo acted so spoiled. She fears how different life is at the mission; she is afraid that she will not be able to leave her old life behind as easily as she had hoped due to her lack of understanding this new culture.
▪ Here Nyasha’s eating condition first appears. It is evident that Nyasha resents all the things that are around her, how much she has and how well off she is, so she consumes (literally) as little of it as she can.
o Chapter 5
▪ It is shown that Maiguru resents how her education isn’t nearly as important as Babamukuru’s, although they received the same education, due to her being a woman and having duty toward her family.
o Chapter 6
▪ Tambu is beginning to shed her original opinions of white people, and even makes some friends at the school.
▪ When Babamukuru and Nyasha fight, Tambu sees that while Babamukuru believes that women deserve an education, their first obligation should be toward their family. Nyasha strongly disagrees due to having lived in England, and so they are always fighting.
o Chapter 7
▪ When Tambu returns home, she is overwhelmed by how disgusted she feels toward the state of her home. Her mother notices the change in her opinion and accuses her of judging her family and home.
▪ A divide is driven between Maiguru and the other women in the family because everyone else seems to believe that Maiguru thinks she is above them due to her education and wealth.
▪ Because Lucia is confident enough to stand up for herself and Ma’Shingayi, the men think she is crazy and even label her a witch. This shows that men believe their women should remain silent, and women believe that it is their duty to remain quietly by the man’s side. Lucia does not stand for this belief.
o Chapter 8
▪ By suggesting the marriage of her parents, Babamukuru insulted Tambu deeply, basically referring to her very existence as a sin. Tambu refuses to go to their wedding, standing up for her beliefs for the first time in the story
▪ Lucia visits the mission with the intent to help Ma’Shingayi give birth and finds a job for herself in the process. She stood up for herself, and through the determination the men in the family scold her for, she earned a job and an education.
o Chapter 9
▪ Maiguru leaves the family because she is unhappy and undervalued. However, she returns after a few days because she feels she required to take care of her family. This earns her some new respect from
o Chapter 10
▪ Nyasha’s breakdown is due to the cultural isolation she feels from everyone around her. Even Tambu, who has become her best friend, does not share the same passionate questioning of her place in society that Nyasha does.
▪ When Tambu returns home, her mother tells her to be careful and watch out for the “Englishness”, which she believes caused Nyasha’s
breakdown. Ma’Shingayi views colonialism as a plague, much like the illness that killed Nhamo.