Red Shirt

Winterkill is a novel written by Craig Lesley about a native American named Danny Kachiah and his son Jack. In order to become closer to his son after not seeing him for fifteen years, his uses his father's (Red Shirt) stories. This helps him become a better father and shows the central idea of the entire novel, which is the passing down of knowledge so time doesn’t consume it and become lost. This also helps Danny on his own personal journey through fatherhood. This leads us into the theme and plot.

Plot is a sequence of incidents or events through which an author conducts a story; skilled authors are careful to present the sequence in significant order. Plot is not to be confused with theme as the definition of theme is a controlling, or central idea; a piece of writing, a person’s thoughts, or a topic. But I prefer our textbook definition, “when an author has deliberately introduced as a unifying element some concept or theory of life the story illuminates.” This is very clear in Winterkill-you can find it almost anywhere; where the theme is the passing down of knowledge. The first piece of knowledge that Danny passed on to Jack occurred on page one hundred and nine, after getting into a fistfight with Hanson. Danny was washing his right hand in a stream and says, “Plantain takes the infection away. Red Shirt showed me.”Throughout the entire novel Craig Lesley includes flashbacks and memories Danny has of his father Red Shirt, and the artistic unity really shows- nothing is irrelevant in Winterkill, everything contributes to the meaning of the story in some way or other, and pushes the plot forward with every word. An example of this is on page eighty five, before he goes in search of Jack, when he remembered Red Shirts song and came to a conclusion, “He knew the dark figures he had seen were after the snake bit him were a sign. And so was the dancer. Now Danny realized he must go after Jack.” The clearly shows that the wolf-cloaked dancer on page eighty one, and the snake bite on page seventy two were indeed relevant to the story as a whole, and not just put in to make the book longer, as it pushes the novel further into the plot. However, not all of the knowledge that Danny contains about Red Shirt is passed down. Some of it he kept to himself to reflect upon and then applied it to his situation. This is evident when Jack didn't want to set traps with Danny for beavers on page two hundred twenty six. Danny remembered how he himself didn’t want to kill a baby beaver, although Red Shirt forced him to. This strengthens his bond to his own son, as he realises how Jack felt since he himself was put in a very similar situation.

The characterization in this novel is well done, although characterization is harder to pick apart than plot or theme since characters are people and people’s characteristics are vast and unpredictable (you think you know a guy). Danny feels very fleshed out to me, like a guy you could run into back in 1967. The author accomplishes this first through indirect characterization, as we never directly hear what Danny, Jack or Red Shirt are like through other characters. Rather, as we read the story their personalities become more evident through their actions and words. I learned that Red Shirt is respectful to animals when he told Danny to bury the bears paws far enough underground so other animals wouldn’t be able to get to them. Red Shirt would also throw tobacco to appease the spirits, which further defines him as a character. I believe him to be a round character, one with many sides and complex. Danny would also best be described as a round character, but he is a developing character as well (since the plot of the story is Danny's journey into fatherhood). Danny becomes a better father and Jack, little by little, warms up to his father and sees him in a different light. On page one hundred and seventeen Jack mentions that his mother said Danny brought bad luck. Danny then told the story about the elk and how he shot at the wolf, saying Red Shirt never talked about that hunting trip. Jack then asked,” Was it the bad luck?” to which he replied, “Maybe.” This shows that Danny underwent a change from before that hunting trip to after it, as it is still a very vivid memory in his mind. Jack on the other hand is a flat character, which is “a character that usually only has one or two predominant traits. In other words they can be summed up in a sentence or so (textbook).” He’s the son of Danny Kachiah, and that’s all we really need to know about him.

This novel also includes some element of suspense, which is key if you want a reader to continue reading your story. Suspense “increases when a readers curiosity is combined with anxiety about the fate of a likeable, sympathetic character.” For instance, one of my favorite parts was when Jack was sitting in the creek and the steer came out of the brush and charged Jack. This moment is full of suspense as the Jacks life hangs in the balance. Danny quickly mounted Ring-eye and used Jacks jacket to blind it before it’s horns had the chance to kill him. I probably read this part of the novel faster than the rest of the book as I was eager to find out what would happen and hoped Jack would make it out alive.

In this story there are different types of antagonists. In the beginning of the story it was man vs. society, as the people the hazers in the rodeo were being racist. They “didn’t keep the steer close enough. Those hazers don’t work as hard for us as for the white boys.” This book also includes man vs. man. When Jack went to get his stuff from Hanson Danny got into a brief fistfight. Man vs. man also re-appears in a memory when Red Shirt got into a fight with Wendell and Bert after drinking with Verline, right before he died in his truck. There is also man vs. nature, which is made clear by all the hunting they do and the steer that almost killed Jack.

There are also different types of point of views, or POV for short. The point of view is who tells the story and therefore influences how the story is told. Obviously, this story is told by Danny Kachiah. But there are many variations and combinations of POV. The four basic ones are omniscient, third person limited, first person, and objective. This story is told in third person limited point of view; where the story is told through the third person but from the viewpoint of one character in the story. This POV is limited to this one character and therefore cannot show any direct knowledge to what other characters are thinking. This POV works very well for this novel, as it allows for the reader to easily transition from the present to Danny’s memories. We get to see how Danny thinks and functions and that drew me closer to him as a character and helped me understand him more. I don’t feel like the author had trouble in having the character naturally cognizant of all important events as the textbook suggests. Everything flowed together really well and the ending was fitting and left me feeling satisfied, albeit a little melancholy.

This is a great work of literature because of the theme and the message it implies, the plot and structural elements it included, characterization, elements of suspense, the uses of antagonists, and finally the point of view. The story starts off a little slow with Danny at a rodeo, and then slowly starts to gain momentum when we meet Jack.Danny just wanted to be closer to his son and did multiple father son activities, such as hunting, along with telling tales about his father Red Shirt. It finally pays off in the end, “After a few moments, Danny felt Jack’s hand on his arm...Danny covered his son’s hand with his own, knowing they must return next camp.”