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Toby Karass-Rohan
Nicolas Carrier
English LPE-18
Discrimination in Thomas Kings Green Grass Running Water
Thomas Kings Green Grass Running Water is a novel that explores four separate
storylines that intertwine at various points. They all take place in North America and
revolve around Native American culture and the struggles they face. These stories include
a view of the relationships between George, a white American-born man, and Latisha, a
member of the Blackfoot community in Canada, and the past relationship between her
uncle Eli and a white Canadian woman named Karen. There is also the retelling and
parody of several classic stories, including a few Biblical tales, such as the story of Noah
ark and Jesus walking on water. The main themes explored throughout these
circumstances are discrimination, entitlement, identity and injustice. More specifically,
the story suggests that people with rigid beliefs in their own gender or race superiority
feel a sense of entitlement thus creating injustice towards those they discriminate against.
This is shown through the characterization of both George Morningstar and Eli Stands
Alone, as well as the parody of the Biblical story about Noahs ark.
Firstly, George is characterized as a narrow-minded American who belittles his
wife for being Canadian, disrespects her Native culture and treats her poorly as he feels
entitled to her respect and obedience because he is a man. Early in their marriage, George
would point out the differences between Americans and Canadians, like how Americans
are independent whereas Canadians are dependent or how all the great military men

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in North Americawere Americans (King 156, 157). He loves belittling Canada to his
Albertan wife and always made those types of generalizations as statements of fact, with
not proof to back it up. That shows his sense of superiority and his narrow-mindedness,
as well as his general lack of critical thinking. One day, George randomly walked into
Latishas restaurant wearing a jacket he had just gotten and asked her what do you
think? and since she was working she did not care so she had looked and nodded and
gone back to work (King 191). They had a short exchange in which she made a few
comments that he found disrespectful. When she got home, George grabbed Latisha by
her dress, and slammed her against the wall. And before she realized what was happening
he was hitting her as hard as he could, beating her until she fell (King 192). At that
point, like during most of their marriage, Latisha was providing for the family by running
her restaurant so the fact that she was uninterested by his jacket while she was working is
completely understandable. This incident shows his emotional instability when it comes
to his ego and pride. He believes that, as a man, he deserves to be praised by his wife for
something as useless as a jacket, completely overlooking the fact that he is wasting her
time and bothering her. Later in the novel, George goes to the Sun Dance where he tries
to take pictures, which is strictly forbidden. When Eli and Lionel, Latishas brother,
confront him, he tries to keep the film. When they take it by force he says, this is ice age
crap! Its the twentieth century. Nobody cares about your little powwow. A bunch of
old people and drunks sitting around in tents in the middle of nowhere, then when he is
told to leave he shouts, Youre a joke! You all act like this is important, like its going
to change your lives. Christ, you guys are born stupid and you die stupid (King 386).
Georges tantrum is another reflection of his ignorance and sense of entitlement, as he

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disrespects the entire Sun Dance tradition even though he is the one who approached
them uninvited.
Secondly, Elis characterization shows his trouble finding his identity due to
subtle discrimination when he is a young adult and how he later has to deal with the dam
built with racist intent. When Eli moved in with Karen, she gave him a nickname, calling
him her Mystic Warrior (King 164). That small nickname is an indication of subtle
racism as he was neither mystic nor a warrior; she just liked the idea that Eli was
Indian, turning it into a sort of fetish (King 163). Early in their relationship, she would
start belittling his taste in reading. He tried to hint that he had no objection to a Western
or another New Woman novel, and Karen would laugh and pull another book out of her
bag, a book that usually was about Indians (King 162). She would not let him enjoy they
genres he liked because she saw them as beneath her, which shows her sense of
superiority towards Eli. Later in his life, Eli returns to the house his mother built to save
it from being destroyed for the construction of a dam. The dam-builder, Clifford Sifton,
visits Elis house on a daily basis to get him to move. During one of those visits, Eli
mentions Native treaties, to which Sifton replies, those treaties arent worth a damn
Whod of guessed that there would still be Indians kicking around in the twentieth
century (King 141). That small comment shows the ignorance and racism that Eli and
Native Americans face, as they are often portrayed as savages and a thing of the past.
Thirdly, the parody of the Biblical story of Noahs ark shows a different side of
discrimination as Noah is portrayed as a misogynistic little man covered in feces. When
Changing Woman lands in Noahs canoe full of excrement, he immediately associates her
to Eve, saying, she sinnedthats why Im in a canoe full of animals. Thats why Im in

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a canoe full of poop (King 145). It is shown that Noah blames women for the
predicament he is in. In the Bible, it is said that from a woman sin had its beginning, and
because of her we all die (New International Version, Eccles. 25.24). That shows the
reflection of Kings parody on the actual misogynistic content of the Bible. A few
moments later, Noah says Changing woman is his new wife because she fell from the
sky, making her a gift from heaven so he immediately commands her to show him her
breasts (King 145). He quotes his so-called Christian rules such as Thou Shalt Have
Big Breasts (King 146). This is a parody of the way women are represented in
Christianity. According to Elizabeth Ann Clark in her book Women in the Early Church,
women were Gods creation, his good gift to men and the curse of the world, showing
that there has always been extreme misogyny and possessiveness in Christianity (Clark
15). King uses his parodies of Biblical texts to show the sexism towards found in religion
and in society.
In conclusion, Green Grass Running Water suggests that people who have
superiority complexes resulting from their firm belief in their own race or gender treat
minority groups unjustly. The characterization of George shows the entitled mentality of
a narrow-minded, privileged person and how he interacts with minority groups whereas
Elis characterization explores the receiving end of the discrimination. He is shown to
struggle with his identity because of race issues creating a sort of inner turmoil. Finally,
the parody of the story of Noahs ark exposes the extreme misogyny in The Bible, one of
the most influential books of all time. The story also shows that ones identity can
transcend racism and sexism by connecting with ones community and cultural roots,
allowing for a potentially happier life.

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Works Cited

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Clark, Elizabeth Ann. Women in the Early Church. Ed. Thomas Halton. New York:
Liturgical, 2005. Print.
King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. New York: Bantam Books, 1994. Print.
Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.