Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.)
The fourteen-year-old narrator and protagonist of the novel. Junior is frequently bullied because of his “weird” physical attributes, the result of the hydrocephalus he was born with. Though he is often lonely and thinks of… read analysis of Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.)
Junior’s dog. Junior sees Oscar as “the only living thing that I could depend on” and “a better person than any human I had ever known.” When Oscar gets sick early in the novel, Junior’s… read analysis of Oscar
Junior’s mother. An avid reader with an extraordinary memory for information, she would have gone to college if given the chance. Mom is an “ex-drunk” who has become religious since she quit drinking. In the… read analysis of Mom
Junior’s father, who sings when he gets drunk, treasures an old saxophone from high school, and could have been a talented musician. Dad is an alcoholic who will disappear for days to drink, often when—and… read analysis of Dad
Mary Runs Away
Junior’s older sister, nicknamed “Mary Runs Away” because of her unpredictability. At the beginning of the novel, she has been living alone in her parents’ basement ever since she “froze” after graduating high school; Junior… read analysis of Mary Runs Away
The Wellpinit geometry teacher, who advises Junior to leave the reservation. Mr. P is one of many “weird” and “lonely” characters in the novel, such as Mary, Junior, and Gordy, and is known… read analysis of Mr. P
Junior’s grandmother. (The text identifies her as Junior’s mother’s mother, although there seems to be a small discrepancy here: Grandmother’s last name is Spirit, the same as Junior’s, whereas his mother’s maiden name is Adams.)… read analysis of Grandmother Spirit
Junior’s “translucent semi-girlfriend,” a beautiful and popular freshman at Reardan High School. Roger, a big-brother figure to her, calls her Penultimate. Penelope is the first Reardan student to speak to Junior, but generally ignores… read analysis of Penelope
A star basketball and football player and a popular senior at Reardan High School. Junior calls him “Roger the Giant.” When Junior first arrives in Reardan, Roger calls him “Chief” and tells him a racist… read analysis of Roger
Dad’s best friend, who drinks constantly, rides a motorcycle, and works as an EMT for the tribal clinic. Junior implies that although Eugene is a happy drunk, he’s also deeply sad. Eugene encourages Junior when… read analysis of Eugene
Junior’s friend and the “class genius” at the Reardan school, who loves computers and books. Described as “an eighty-year-old literature professor trapped in the body of a fifteen-year-old” white farm boy from Reardan, Gordy teaches… read analysis of Gordy
The coach of Junior’s and Roger’s basketball team at Reardan High School. Pledging to treat his team with dignity and respect, and treating Junior’s tears and “yucking” (or pregame vomiting) with compassion and understanding, Coach… read analysis of Coach
The drunk driver who strikes and kills Grandmother Spirit as she is walking home from a powwow. Through her last words to the doctor who treats her, Grandmother asks her family to forgive Gerald; he… read analysis of Gerald
A white billionaire who is “famous for being filthy rich and really weird.” Claiming to love Indian culture and “feel Indian in his bones,” he shows up at Junior’s grandmother’s funeral to return a… read analysis of Ted
The Andruss Brothers
Thirty-year-old triplets who beat Junior up when he and Rowdy go to the powwow. Rowdy gets revenge by cutting off their braids when they are passed out.
Junior’s first crush, an Indian girl from Wellpinit. When Junior and Rowdy are twelve, Rowdy promises never to tell that Junior cried about loving the unattainable Dawn (who, Rowdy noted at the time, “doesn’t give a shit” about Junior).
The Reardan geology teacher, who is filling in the position despite not having a background in science. Mr. Dodge deeply resents it when Junior corrects his statement about petrified wood, but thanks Gordy for saying the same thing.
Penelope’s father, a racist who warns Junior that he will disown Penelope if Junior gets her pregnant.
Eugene’s friend, who mistakenly kills him in a drunken argument. Once in jail, Bobby is so overwhelmed with guilt that he hangs himself with a bedsheet; Junior says that Eugene’s loved ones “didn’t even have enough time to forgive” Bobby.
The Reardan social studies teacher. When Mrs. Jeremy makes a snide comment about Junior’s frequent absences—many of which have been due to funerals and wakes—Gordy leads the class in a demonstration of defiance against her.
The Reardan guidance counselor, who gives Junior the news of Mary’s death.