One important piece of imagery in the novel is that of the Indian regalia. The colors and "variegated" patterns typical to the costume are first described by Jacquie in the mundane setting of a Phoenix conference room. The same colorful variegation appears in the regalia of the dancers who gather in the locker room of the Big Oakland Powwow. The colorful costumes become a symbol of the tragedy at the powwow, as the fallen dancers are highly visible and easy to spot in their regalia as they lay wounded on the ground.
The images of Oakland itself powerfully situate the novel in its place, reminding readers of the importance of home and the city for many of Orange's characters. A BART train transport Dene, for example, to his grant interview. The personification of the train, "slithering" along the freeway, makes Dene's experience feel less isolated: he is in the company of the train, if no one else. At the same time, the train's movements, in tandem with the cars moving along the road, situate a personal narrative amid the story of the city: one experiencing change and loss parallel to Dene's.
The image of an Indian Head is the point of entry into Orange's novel. It shows how the white cultural signs of Native Americans are deeply rooted in violence. The image is a potent and deeply unsettling one: the head is the center of all our perceptual faculties, and so to highlight it as a morbid trophy kept by colonists—especially in a novel that is so deeply rooted in the diverse perspective of Native Americans—serves to vividly underscore the grotesque legacy of colonization.
One thematically and culturally significant element of imagery is the extent to which Native Americans physically "appear" Native American. For instance, Dene worries that the grant administrators will not realize that he is Native because his skin is so pale. In this way, Orange deftly portrays the struggle of having one's identity misconstrued by others: prejudiced people will judge you on the basis of your skin, whether or not that skin reflects your heritage.
There There Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for There There is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.