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A Thief Of Time By Tony Hillerman

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In A Thief of Time, Tony Hillerman's characters display perspectives of diverse cultural backgrounds. In Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn we see a shared heritage, as well as their contrasting points of view which stem from choosing different values to live by. Quite a few characters in Hillerman's book, who are not of Navajo blood, connect themselves with Navajo culture through digs, collection, and personal gain. This essay will briefly touch on the view points of three characters; Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn, and Richard DuMont. In these three, we are able to see a variety of cultural angles and values through their interactions with a single interface, death.

The differences between Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are blatantly apparent throughout the book. The two characters are symbols of diverging paths that stem from a corresponding kinship. Both characters are aware of their ancestors tribal rituals in regards to dealing with death. In Chee we see the perspective of one who whole-heartedly immerses themselves in a set of cultural beliefs. "Jim Chee was a modern man built upon traditional Navajo. This was simply too much death. Too many ghosts disturbed... He wanted only to be away from here. Into the cleansing heat of a sweat bath. To be surrounded by the healing, curing sounds of a Ghostway ceremonial,"( 96). In acknowledging the haunting of the "Chindi" he is able to draw substance from his Navajo roots in order to deal with it. "He squatted, singing the sweat bath songs that the Holy People had taught.. Concern for bones and Buick's vanished in the hot darkness,"( 117). His strong connection to one culture yields freedom from the haunting of death. The contrasting perspectives of Chee and Leaphorn arise from the values they base their lives on.

Leaphorn is stuck in between the values of modern-day civilization and those of unforgettable blood ties. In refuting the practicality of Navajo traditions it is easier for him to ignore them. In Jim Chee, Leaphorn sees a path which is the polar opposite of his own. "Chee seemed to think an island of 180,000 Navajos could live the old way in a white ocean... Not practical. Navajos had to compete in the real world. The Navajo Way didn't teach competition. Far from it,"( 227).

In Leaphorn's character we are able to see the turmoil that arises when one doesn't have defined values. Without Emma in his physical life he is unable to ignore the empty space where cultural and religious connections would normally reside. After a year of dealing with his wife's death, Leaphorn assesses the option of using the practices of his Navajo predecessors. "And Emma's laughter. It was everywhere he looked. He should sell the house or burn it. Abandon the house contaminated by the death, lest the ghost sickness infect you and you died. Wise were the elders of his people.. But instead, he would play this pointless game,"( 63). Because Leaphorn



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