The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

James Many Horses Character Analysis

Orphaned in a house fire that took his parents’ lives, James Many Horses is raised by the unnamed young man who saved his life, through whose eyes we see the early years of James’s life unfold. As a child James is silent and slow to develop language and motor skills; he does not cry, he does not crawl, and he does not speak. When he does begin to talk, he is, according to his guardian, deeply spiritual, intelligent, and advanced for his age. When we encounter James next, he is grown; a man “who [tells] so many jokes that he even ma[kes] other Indians get tired of his joking.” He is married to a woman named Norma, who leaves him after an argument they have when he makes several jokes in the middle of telling her that he has late-stage cancer. He receives “useless” cancer treatment in a Spokane hospital for a time, but is then sent home so that he can be more “comfortable.” Norma eventually returns home as well, with the intention of helping James to “die the right way.”
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James Many Horses Character Timeline in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character James Many Horses appears in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Jesus Christ’s Half-Brother is Alive and Well on the Spokane Indian Reservation
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
...Bad Arrow Hunting for Enough Deer to Feed the Whole Tribe.” Everyone calls the baby James. (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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...Rosemary MorningDove’s house is on fire. Frank rushes into the house, and, minutes later, throws James, who is “a little on fire,” out the window. The narrator runs to catch James,... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
After getting drunk, the narrator goes to the reservation hospital to visit James, Frank, and Rosemary. When he arrives, Moses MorningDove, Rosemary’s father, tells him that Frank and... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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One night some time later, James can’t sleep, and stares at the ceiling without crying. The narrator takes James to the... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...the wall, and he hasn’t replaced it. The narrator shoots hoops in the cold while James waits silently by the porch. The narrator believes that James is getting closer and closer... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Later that same year, James is already sitting up in his chair, but still does not talk. The narrator, though,... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
The narrator believes that James, who hasn’t cried once yet, is “waiting for that one moment to cry like it... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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In 1969, the narrator takes James to the clinic because he still hasn’t cried though he’s “a few years old.” Afterward,... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Some months later, James still doesn’t speak, but kicks violently while dreaming. The narrator breaks his leg playing basketball,... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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In 1970, the narrator and James sit home by the stove, since the narrator “can’t walk anywhere.” James is almost five... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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On James’s birthday, the narrator watches the Vietnam War on television in a local bar. He goes... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Months later, the narrator leaves James at “somebody’s” house while he gets drunk, and the police arrest him for abandonment. The... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...narrator has “been sober so long it’s like a dream.” He and his aunt take James into the city for a checkup, since he still isn’t talking. (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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...Sometimes the narrator wants to drink “so bad that it aches and [he] cries,” though James, for his part, still refuses to cry. (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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In 1973, James finally talks, but the narrator isn’t entirely sure that it was “real.” He believes James... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...younger Indian boys and girls. When he plays, he says, he doesn’t feel like drinking. James watches him play. The narrator says that James “always talks whenever [he’s] not in the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
On Christmas Day, James speaks clearly directly to the narrator, seemingly revealing a series of visions. “He says the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
In 1974, the narrator takes James to the World’s Fair in Spokane. James speaks to the crowds at the fair; he... (full context)
The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
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James Many Horses argues with his wife, Norma. He attempts to leave and drive off in... (full context)
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
At the Tavern, James finds Norma. The two reconcile, and Norma tells him that if he “say[s] anything funny... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
James recalls meeting Norma for the first time at the Powwow Tavern. The two connected instantly,... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
James remembers his and Norma’s wedding. One of his cousins, “drunk as a skunk,” stood up... (full context)
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Three months after Norma leaves him, James receives radiation treatments in a hospital in Spokane. The treatments are useless, and James’s doctor... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
James remembers a specific day—January 22nd—when Norma, “the world champion fry bread maker,” made her best... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Back in the present, James receives postcards from Norma as she travels to powwows all over the country. The hospital... (full context)
Somebody Kept Saying Powwow
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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...his friendship with Norma, noting that he knew her long before she knew her husband James. He knew Norma, he says, “back when there was good fry bread to be eaten... (full context)