There There

There There

Calvin Johnson Character Analysis

A native man on the powwow committee at the local Indian Center in Oakland. Calvin is living with his sister, Maggie, and his niece, Sonny, when his brother, Charles, comes to him for help—Charles is in over his head with some drug dealers, and hopes that getting Calvin involved will take the pressure off of him. Calvin, too, soon finds himself dealing with more than he bargained for when he becomes part of Charles’s dealer Octavio’s plot to rob the Big Oakland Powwow. Calvin provides the group with essential information about the powwow’s setup and how the cash prizes are being stored. He betrays his own people in hopes of helping his family and indeed himself, and is ultimately wounded—perhaps even killed—when the scheme at the powwow takes a terrible turn. Calvin represents the cyclical nature of trauma and violence, and the ways in which oppression and desperation lead people to betray the ones they should stand with, and do horrible things in the process.

Calvin Johnson Quotes in There There

The There There quotes below are all either spoken by Calvin Johnson or refer to Calvin 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:
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of There There published in 2018.
Part II: Calvin Johnson (2) Quotes

Dene starts to say something about storytelling, some real heady shit, so Calvin tunes out. He doesn’t know what he’s gonna say when it comes around to him. He’d been put in charge of finding younger vendors, to support young Native artists and entrepreneurs. But he hadn’t done shit.

Related Characters: Dene Oxendene, Calvin Johnson
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part IV: Dene Oxendene (4) Quotes

He crawls out through the black curtains. For a second the brightness of the day blinds him. He rubs his eyes and sees across from him something that doesn’t make any sense for more than one reason. Calvin Johnson, from the powwow committee, is firing a white gun at a guy on the ground, and two other guys are shooting on his left and right. One of them is in regalia. Dene gets on his stomach. He should have stayed under his collapsed booth.

Related Characters: Dene Oxendene, Calvin Johnson
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part IV: Calvin Johnson (4) Quotes

[Calvin] looks over to Tony, who’s bouncing a little—he’s light on his feet like he’s ready to dance. Tony’s supposed to do the actual robbing. The rest of them are there in case anything goes wrong. Octavio never explained why he wants Tony in regalia, and why he should be the one to take the money. Calvin assumes it’s because someone in regalia would be harder to identify, and ultimately harder to investigate.

Related Characters: Tony Loneman, Calvin Johnson, Octavio Gomez
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Calvin Johnson Character Timeline in There There

The timeline below shows where the character Calvin Johnson appears in There There. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part II: Calvin Johnson (1)
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Calvin comes home from work to find his sister Maggie and his niece Sonny, with whom... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Maggie, Sonny, and Calvin eat dinner happily, but when Calvin goes to the kitchen for a beer and Maggie... (full context)
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
...is a huge and intimidating man. He sits down on the couch and begins berating Calvin for avoiding him and “playing house” with their sister. Calvin blames Charles for setting him... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
They arrive at someone’s house, but Calvin, disoriented, is uncertain of where they are. Soon, Octavio walks in, asking the “Charlos” what... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
When Calvin snaps himself out of his reverie, he realizes that Octavio, Charles, and Carlos are all... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Calvin says he has no interest in helping to rob the people he works with—and would... (full context)
Part II: Calvin Johnson (2)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Calvin Johnson arrives at a powwow committee meeting, where everyone is chatting and eating. There is... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
...of the committee walks into the room in a baseball cap. The man looks, to Calvin, like he’s white. Blue introduces the second new guy as Dene Oxendene, who is going... (full context)
Part II: Dene Oxendene (2)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Dene is set up in Blue’s office with his camera and mic, interviewing Calvin for his storytelling project. Dene has learned through doing several of these interviews that sometimes... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Calvin tells a story about being robbed in the parking lot of a powwow a while... (full context)
Part IV: Calvin Johnson (3)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Calvin, Charles, Carlos, and Octavio eat breakfast at the Denny’s next to the coliseum. They are... (full context)
Part IV: Octavio Gomez (2)
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
...bullets from the bush where Tony left them. In the bathroom, Octavio, Charles, Carlos, and Calvin load their guns. Octavio feels a sense of dread. His hands shake, and he drops... (full context)
Part IV: Dene Oxendene (4)
Storytelling Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
...way out of the collapsed wooden beams and black curtains. As he emerges, he sees Calvin Johnson from the powwow committee firing a gun at a guy on the ground. Two... (full context)
Part IV: Calvin Johnson (4)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Calvin stands near the table where Blue and Edwin sit with the prize money, his hat... (full context)
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
Octavio springs into action, pointing his gun at Edwin and Blue. He is remarkably calm, Calvin notices, as he demands they hand over the safe. Edwin hands over the bag of... (full context)