There There

There There Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Oakland, 21st century

Narrator and Point of View

The narrative voice switches many times over the course of the novel. One narrator that appears in both the Prologue and the Interlude is a voice abstracted from the plot itself; this narrator provides critical commentary on the history and present of Native life in the United States. Other narrators are the main characters of the plot, beginning and ending with Tony Loneman.

Tone and Mood

The tone is matter-of-fact even while depicting great emotional upheaval and tragedy. The mood of the novel is grim and serious.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The main characters are various and diverse, and quite a few of their stories are given equal and central protagonistic weight. The principal antagonists are colonial violence and the legacy of that violence over hundreds of years.

Major Conflict

There are several sophisticated layers of conflict in the novel. The central conflict of the plot itself is the scheme to rob the Big Oakland Powwow of its prize money. However, the much deeper conflict is that of Native culture resisting white colonialism's repeated attempts to force it to assimilate and disappear.


The massacre at the Big Oakland Powwow is the climax.


Readers learn of the plot to rob the Powwow at the very start of the novel. References to violence foreshadow that this robbery will end in bloodshed.






See separate "Imagery" section of this ClassicNote.


The sad paradox of the violence at the heart of the novel's plot is that it comes from within the community. At the same time, Orange makes it clear that this violence is the legacy of centuries of white colonial violence inflicted on Native communities all over the Americas.



Metonymy and Synecdoche



Orange occasionally uses personification as a literary device to depict the emotional experiences of his characters. For example, when Dene's uncle dies, and Dene takes refuge in a tunnel near his mother's house, he describes how the “Wind howled in the tunnel. At him. It seemed to breathe. It was a mouth and a throat” (43)—personifying a natural element, the wind, into a living creature that breathes alongside Dene.