Tony Hillerman's The Ghostaway
In a country that is the melting pot for many cultures, it is hard to interact with all of them. Tony Hillerman educates readers about one culture, the Navajos, through his novel, The Ghostway. After a shooting occurs in the quiet Indian reservation, a Navajo police Jim Chee, officer overcomes many obstacles physically, mentally, and spiritually to sort the case out and protect a young girl. He is constantly struggling with his identity, whether or not he should continue living his life as a Navajo or cross over to mainstream “white” life. Although the book’s main plot is about a murder and police investigations, a theme that the book is always making references about is cultural differences and how these mere differences can make things rough on people’s lives.
The Navajo culture is contains a lot of symbolism, filled with many beliefs, rituals, and traditions that are excluded only to Navajos which makes their interactions with the outside difficult. After a death in a Hogan, the Hogan has to be setup in a way to protect the ghost. When Jim Chee first went down to the Hogan he noticed what had happened, “ He could think of just one reason to block a Hogan’s smoke hole.”(18)The Navajo tradition is very spiritual and believes in spirits of the dead, they prepare the Hogan in a way so the spirit can do no harm to anyone so the block the smoke to keep the spirit inside.. Since he was raised not to enter a dead Hogan it stopped him from really doing his job and investigate the scene. This shows how the Navajos beliefs are so different and philosophical compared to way of life in the city. When Chee is eating at a diner in the city of L.A. he finds it intriguing that it is difficult to figure out the ethnic identity of the waitress, “ On the big reservation, where people were scarce and scattered, one tended to lump them into categories.” (146) Chee compares how the people from where he is from are not stuck into categories but are all the same. He was not use to seeing so many different races and it was hard for him to distinguish what race is what. Chee also found it to be complicated when it came to see life through other ways rather than the Navajo way because it was so different form what he was used to and he can not make the change.
A way that the author also showed cultural differences is through the character Vaggan, a white hit man that wanted the death of those around him. There are times in the book where the author would tell the story from the point of view of Chee to the point of view of Vaggan. During the first meeting between Chee and Vaggan the author does this where Chee is called “ an indian” instead of by...