Reservation Blues Characters

Reservation Blues Character List

Thomas Builds-the-Fire

Thomas is an Indian living on the reservation. Thomas is considered as being the odd one out and is frequently bullied by those around him. Thomas is a good storyteller and he is known for his stories and for the way he presents things that happened in the past. Just like many other Indians, Thomas was raised in a dysfunctional family in which his mother killed herself and his father was a hopeless drunk. Thomas is the one who founds the band and the one who keeps the rest of the members together. Thomas is also the one who is slightly more mature, refusing to drink and party in the manner Junior and Victor did. In the end, Thomas finds love with Chess and the two decide to get married and leave the reservation to start a better life in a better place.


Victor is regarded as being the bully of the reservation, a young man who spends his day drinking and doing nothing of real importance. Victor takes over the magic guitar and after he touches it he becomes convinced that his role in life is to play music. Together with Junior and the rest of the band, they travel from one reservation to another and they sing covers of various famous artists. Victor is extremely close to Junior and the two are almost like brothers. When Junior decides to take his own life, Victor is devastated and promises to stop drinking and live a better life. His attempt at turning around his life is however unsuccessful as employers are unsure wheatear to hire Victor or not based on his past. Victor’s future remains uncertain at the end of the novel.


Junior is another important character in the novel and he is another member of the band. Junior is the younger in the band he is the most innocent and good hearted character in the novel. Junior had a traumatic childhood as well and the experience he had with his parents made him be more wary about drinking in excess. While he does drink from time to time, he is not involved into drinking as his friend, Victor. After the band returns from New York, Junior kills himself without giving any reason why he did it.

Chess Warm Water

Chess is an Indian from a different reservation than the boys and she sees them while she is at a concert with her older sister. Both Chess and her sister are described as being extremely beautiful and it is no wonder that Thomas felt in love with Chess. He invited the two girls to join the band as well and a romantic relationship developed quickly between the two. At the end of the novel, Chess and Thomas plan to marry one another and leave the reservation where Thomas lived to go and try their luck in another place.


Checkers is Chess’s older sister who also becomes a member of the band. She is extremely beautiful but instead of choosing a normal man to marry she falls in love with Father Arnold. When she admits her feeling for the priest, Checkers decides to stay behind and joins the Church’s choir, hoping to impress Father Arnold. When Chess and Thomas decide to leave town and start over again in another place, Checkers decides to leave as well with them.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson is the man who appears in the first chapter and who gives his guitar to the men on the reservation. It is implied that he was based on the real Robert Johnson, a blues singer who is said to have made a deal with the Devil. In the novel, instead of dying and being found by the Gentleman, Robert continues to live with Big Mom on the Mountain.

Big Mom

Big Mom is an old Indian woman who lives in the mountains and who is said to have trained numerous musicians. When the band gets ready to go to New York, they first go to Big Mom who teaches them how to sing better and how to be better performers. She is also the one who foreshadows the fact that the band will be unsuccessful.

Father Arnold

Father Arnold is the priest that serves on the reservation. He is very understanding and in comparison with the other people he does not consider the boys in the band as being evil for playing music. When Checkers declares her love for him, he plans to leave the reservation but is advised by Big Mom to think about it again and reconsider the situation.


Betty is a young girl from Detroit who becomes interested in the band started by the boys on the reservation. She spends some time on the reservation and during that time she becomes involved with Junior. Betty and her friend sing for a brief time with the band and after that they sign a contract with the same company the boys from the reservation were supposed to sign with.


Veronica is Betty’s friend who also goes to the reservation. Veronica becomes briefly involved with Victor.

David WalksAlong

David is the Tribal Council on the reservation where Thomas and the rest of the band lived. He is the one who criticizes the band the most and who tries to make the band’s members’ lives harder by making the other people on the reservation hate them as well.

Phil Sheridan

Phil Sheridan is the man who comes to the reservation to convince the boys to go and record an album in New York.

George Wright

George is an executive at the record house where the band was supposed to record their album.

Mr. Armstrong

Mr. Armstrong is the owner of the record company where the band was supposed to record their album.

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