The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time

by

Timothy Egan

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Melt White Character Analysis

The son of Bam White. The cowboy learned through his extended family that he was of partial Apache and Cherokee ancestry, which had been a family secret. Due to his dark skin color, White was taunted by his classmates, who called him “Mexican” or “nigger.” White was a sensitive child and would get angry at the taunts, as well as upset with people who criticized his father after the release of The Plow That Broke the Plains. White was proud of Bam for making the film and agreed with his father’s belief that misuse of the land had caused the Dust Bowl. After his father died, he moved back to Dalhart and built a home at the edge of town, where he moved with his wife, Juanita. When Egan interviewed him in 2002, White was working as a house painter and a paper hanger, though he never ceased to think of himself as “a cowboy by trade and inclination.”

Melt White Quotes in The Worst Hard Time

The The Worst Hard Time quotes below are all either spoken by Melt White or refer to Melt White. 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:
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the First Mariner edition of The Worst Hard Time published in 2006.
Introduction Quotes

The other kids teased him about his skin, which seemed too full of the sun, even in winter. One Sunday, Melt asked visiting relatives how the family came to be. You shush, boy, he was told. Melt kept at it. Finally, an aunt told about the Apache and Cherokee in him. She said he should never tell anybody—keep it inside the family. “It’s a disgrace to be part Indian,” he says. “That’s what she said.”

Related Characters: Melt White
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Keeping the dust out was impossible. Even fresh-cleaned clothes, hanging outside to dry on the line, were at risk [….] Lizzie swept five, six times a day. She had her boys shovel dust in the morning, after it piled up outside the door. Sometimes a big dune blocked the door, and the boys had to crawl out the window to get to it. The dust arrived in mysterious ways. It could penetrate like a spirit, cascading down the walls or slithering along the ceiling until it found an opening.

Related Characters: Melt White, Lizzie White
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

People were drilling deep and tapping into the main vein of that ancient, underground reservoir of the Ogallala Aquifer, as big as the grassland itself, they said. These new boomers, a handful of men in town, wanted no part of Bennett’s soil-conservation districts. They wanted money to pump up a river of water from the Ogallala, pass it through a tangle of pipes, and spit it out over the sandpapered land. They would grow wheat and corn and sorghum, and they would make a pile, using all the water they wanted, you just wait and see. They talked as if it were the dawn of the wheat boom, twenty years earlier. Melt thought they had not learned a thing from the last decade. The High Plains belonged to Indians and grass, but few people in Dalhart shared his feelings.

Related Characters: Melt White, Hugh Hammond Bennett
Related Symbols: Wheat
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Worst Hard Time LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Worst Hard Time PDF

Melt White Character Timeline in The Worst Hard Time

The timeline below shows where the character Melt White appears in The Worst Hard Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: Live Through This
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Melt White lives south, in Dalhart, Texas. Though nearly everyone he grew up with is now... (full context)
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
 Growing up, Melt White was teased about the color of his skin, “which seemed too full of the... (full context)
Chapter 5: Last of the Great Plowup
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
...area and a sleeping area. There was no running water, no electricity, and no toilet. Melt was responsible for bringing in buckets of water for cleaning and cooking and collecting cow... (full context)
Chapter 7: A Darkening
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...homes and bodies before moving on. They blew their noses and drew out “black snot.” Melt White asked his father what it was. Bam said that it was the earth itself.... (full context)
Chapter 8: In a Dry Land
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...in the Dalhart Texan. People would gather and club as many rabbits as they could. Melt White disobeyed his father and went to a drive. He did not participate, but he... (full context)
Chapter 14: Showdown in Dalhart
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...were hungry and she was afraid of dust pneumonia, which her sister had contracted. Young Melt’s job was to tend to the garden, which soon died. Shortly thereafter, the children came... (full context)
Chapter 16: Black Sunday
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...leaving Dalhart. She was crumbling emotionally, but they could not leave—Bam was too old. Meanwhile Melt had just found out from an aunt about his indigenous ancestry. Initially, he tried to... (full context)
Chapter 19: Witnesses
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...at the Mission Theater. Bam White took his family, and it was the first time Melt had ever seen a movie. The boy could not believe that he was watching his... (full context)
Chapter 23: The Last Men
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...Texas.” Bam did not care what people said about him, but it hurt him when Melt came home from school, heated about what people had said about his father. Melt was... (full context)
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Melt White was outside one early evening when he heard a buzz that sounded like electricity... (full context)
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...food. The winter was harsh and Bam seemed to have lost his spirit. He directed Melt to bring him his fiddle, which he played until his fingers started to bleed. A... (full context)
Anglo Culture and Racism Theme Icon
Melt packed a bag one day and said that he was going back home to where... (full context)
Chapter 25: Rain
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Melt White returned to the old XIT, outside of Dalhart. He found “new boomers” who were... (full context)
Epilogue
The City vs. the Country Theme Icon
...returned, and took up painting in later years—portraying “heroic” dust storms. He died in 1974. Melt White lives with his wife of more than sixty years, Juanita, and worked as a... (full context)