Reservation Blues

Robert Johnson Character Analysis

A famous blues guitarist who lived from 1911-1938. He died under mysterious circumstances, and legend has it that he made a Faustian bargain with the devil to be the best guitar player of all time. Alexie imagines that Johnson has been wandering all this time, trying to escape the Gentleman (a figure of the devil) who took his freedom. He finds refuge in Big Mom’s house and, at the end of the novel, decides to stay on the reservation.

Robert Johnson Quotes in Reservation Blues

The Reservation Blues quotes below are all either spoken by Robert Johnson or refer to Robert Johnson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Reservation Blues published in 1995.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“This is a beautiful place,” Johnson said.
“But you haven’t seen everything,” Thomas said.
“What else is there?”
Thomas thought about all the dreams that were murdered here, and the bones buried quickly just inches below the surface, all waiting to break through the foundations of those government houses built by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Robert Johnson (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Then the music stopped. The reservation exhaled. Those blues created memories for the Spokanes, but they refused to claim them. Those blues lit up a new road, but the Spokanes pulled out their old maps. Those blues churned up generations of anger and pain: car wrecks, suicides, murders. Those blues were ancient, aboriginal, indigenous.

Related Characters: Robert Johnson
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Robert Johnson Character Timeline in Reservation Blues

The timeline below shows where the character Robert Johnson appears in Reservation Blues. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The man introduces himself as Robert Johnson, and reveals that he has come in search of an old woman from his dreams... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Thomas tells Johnson that Big Mom, who lives on top of the beautiful and mystical Wellpinit Mountain, may... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...need: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, and many others. Now she watches as Robert Johnson makes his way to her. (full context)
Chapter 2
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...Thomas bought for himself and Junior are no match for the sound produced by Robert Johnson’s mystical guitar. After a few days, crowds come to watch them rehearse—first Lester FallsApart (a... (full context)
Chapter 3
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...he hopes they don’t make it big, because it might ruin them. He holds Robert Johnson’s guitar in the dream, and plays it, feeling sweet pain, until Victor shouts at him.... (full context)
Chapter 6
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...independent Indian woman, and the story picks up on Big Mom’s front porch with Robert Johnson. Johnson remembers his time with the guitar, how he would escape for weeks at a... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...without her help, they will have no chance of landing a contract, and that Robert Johnson is waiting for him. Big Mom invites the band to visit her at her home. (full context)
Chapter 7
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...figure of Big Mom when they reach her blue house. She tells Thomas that Robert Johnson is gone looking for wood to build a new guitar. She tells Victor that, if... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...the end of a long day of rehearsal, Victor resists playing the chord again. Robert Johnson listens, wincing, from the bushes. Thomas tells Victor to keep going, and they play once... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...back on the reservation unless they are heroes, or rock stars. Thomas calls for Robert Johnson, who hears but doesn’t answer, knowing that the band is entering dangerous territory. Thomas continues... (full context)
Chapter 9
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...share cups of powdered milk for breakfast, hating it. The day before this decision, Robert Johnson sits on Big Mom’s porch and watches the reservation. The two discuss the tragedy of... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Robert Johnson watches as members of the reservation protest Coyote Springs, carrying large signs. He remembers meeting... (full context)
Chapter 10
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...of both musicians and horses, may finally have “been stacked too high inside her.” Robert Johnson tells her that they need her, and that she saved him. She gives him the... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Robert Johnson is walking through town when he sees the-man-who-was-probably-Lakota. They walk together toward the Longhouse. Thomas... (full context)