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Chapter 11: Someone the Size of God
In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Cash Stillwater takes a break from making beaded jewelry to look up and see a flock of pigeons in the sky. His jewelry-making vocation has caused him to start seeing everything in rows—the same ways he sees beads. This way of lining up everything he sees makes him feel as if he is trying to make jewelry for "someone the size of God."
Cash actually gives all the fruits of his labor to his woman-friend Rose Levesque who works at Cheyenne Trading Post, a touristy store in town. She pretends to make the jewelry herself, as her job involves sitting in the window of the store, where she will look like a "genuine Indian" huddled over her work.
Cash makes dinner for himself and Rose, she tells him that the town council has decided to shoot the pigeons in town, since they are not natural to the area. Rose senses Cash's sad demeanor, and asks him if he is thinking about Oklahoma. Cash is from the Cherokee Nation, where he raised two daughters. One daughter committed suicide by driving her car into the river, and Cash has no idea where her baby is. Neither he nor Rose understands the disappearance. The other daughter Cash says might as well be dead. With his wife also dead, Cash feels there is no reason for him to return. Rose and Cash eat lunch at McDonald's the next day, where Cash continues to think about his family. We should note that Cash's sister married a man whose brother was married to Sugar, the same beauty in the Life Magazine advertisement who is Alice's cousin.
Cash works at a health food store by day, and one night after work goes over to meet Rose's boss Mr. Crittendon. He has figured out that Cash is making the jewelry, and is interested to know more about Cash's artistry. Mr. Crittendon asks solemnly about the beadwork, idealizing it as a sacred art.
Later in the week, Rose and Cash find Mr. Crittendon dead, having committed suicide. That night, Cash dreams of his dead wife, cooking for him at their home in Oklahoma. Cash awakes with the conviction that he has to return to Oklahoma. Before he leaves, he witnesses the pigeons being shot, which makes him feel oddly relieved.
Chapter 12: The Twilight Zone of Humanity
Alice is flying from Kentucky to Las Vegas, where she plans to meet Taylor and Turtle, who she knows are in trouble. When she meets them at the airport, Taylor begins to cry, and the narrative shifts into Turtle's consciousness. Turtle is once again thinking about the "bad place." In the car from the airport, Taylor is telling her mother how she lost money gambling in Las Vegas.
The three have lunch at the coffee shop in the Delta Queen Casino, where Alice makes conversation affectionately with Turtle and continues to offer Taylor moral support. With a couple fighting over money next to them, Taylor says she feels like they have entered "the twilight zone of humanity." When their waitress arrives, she recognizes Taylor and Turtle from the Oprah Winfrey show. It turns out she is obsessed with Barbie, and taped the show because one girl featured on it had used the Barbie convertible to save someone's life.
Chapter 11 develops further the themes of Native American identity and the culture clash endured by so many Native peoples. The author introduces yet another setting and cast of characters to the book. Cash Stillwater, a man of Cherokee background, is living like a fish out of water in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Cash is in the middle of an identity crisis. In fact, his character represents the potential demise associated when Native Americans separate from their own people, and their homeland. Cash explicitly recognizes that he feels depressed, and the reader should connect this unnamed depression with the tragic past of his family, and his disconnect from anything associated with his home in the Cherokee Nation.
Cash's deferred dreams dramatize the way he has failed to live a fulfilling life outside the Nation. First of all, he is unaccustomed to white people's values. When he looks back on his dream to own a fox farm, he realizes he was silly to think that he could acquire land outside his home in Oklahoma. On the Nation, people give and take land freely as needed. His talk to Rose about growing ho- hoba beans also suggests that he has internalized the values of American society at large. Making money has become a sign of worth to him. As Rose suggests, his name epitomizes his own identity crisis. He seems consistently preoccupied with his lack of wealth or "cash." He says himself that he acts like he is "one step away from being a cowboy"—one step away from being a more powerful white man.
Mr. Crittendon represents the tragedy of the Native American clash with white culture, to an even greater degree. He despairs over the lack of knowledge about Indian crafts, and his talk with Cash suggests that he idealizes the Cherokee beadwork, thinking of it in a "picture-perfect" way, instead of as it really is. For example, Cash thinks of his daughters, who make beaded jewelry, but also belong to Weight Watchers, smoke cigarettes, and chat on the phone with friends. Mr. Crittendon's suicide symbolizes the tragedy that the culture clash has borne. The only way the white world can conceive of Native American identity is through commodification. All of Native American experience is reduced to Rose pretending to string beads in the window of a tourist shop.
On a more micro level, the suicide acts as a catalyst for Cash. The reader should connect Mr. Crittendon's suicide with Cash's daughter's suicide. Cash's grief is borne out of the pain associated with his family. After Crittendon's death, Cash has a dream that his wife, mother, or daughter tells him what is important is that "you stay here in the same room." His response to his family is symbolized by the pigeons that he watches out his window. Like him, the pigeons are dislocated. We should compare Cash's dislocation with Alice's and Turtle's in the next chapter. The pigeons represent the completeness of a family—when they are shot, he oddly feels relieved. Through the birds' deaths, Cash tries to find peace about his own losses.
The author uses the chapter about Cash to demystify the image of the quaint Native American living a picture-perfect Native American life. This image is what the tourist industry creates and mass-produces, turning Native American life into a commodity that can be consumed. Cash notes at one point that being an Indian has less to do with knowing the beadwork—anyone can learn that—and more to do with the ability to stretch a little food over a lot of people. The author continually tries to debunk the deceptive images that Americans encounter through the media and in tourist shops. In reality, Native American life has nothing to do with consumer culture. Indeed, the next chapter provides an interesting dichotomy to this idea: Barbie's character symbolizes mass-consumption and capitalist marketing.