There There

There There


Tommy Orange

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Themes and Colors
Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance Theme Icon
Generational Trauma Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in There There, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Cultural Identity vs. Personal Identity

The characters who make up the cast of Tommy Orange’s novel There There are wildly different—but they all share a tense relationship to the intersection of their cultural identity as Native Americans and their personal identities. Orvil Red Feather, Blue, and Edwin Black are each shown worrying that they are not “Native enough,” or are Native in the wrong ways—and must reconcile what they know or believe about themselves with their idea of…

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Throughout the novel, Tommy Orange uses his characters to show how storytelling and memory are indispensable parts of Native American culture and tradition. Even though the history of the Native American people is a difficult and painful one, Orange’s characters find that they cannot escape the traditions of storytelling and collective memory which allow their families and communities to survive. Throughout the novel, Orange argues that collective familial, community, and cultural memories and stories are…

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Interconnectedness, Coincidence, and Chance

In the early pages of There There, it seems as if Orange’s hopping and skipping around through the perspectives of various Native Americans living in Oakland—Urban Indians, as they often call themselves—is highlighting disparate and isolated points of view. As the story deepens, however, it becomes clear that all of the characters are interconnected—by their occupations, by chance, and even by blood. As the story builds towards a giant powwow, during which nearly all…

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Generational Trauma

In searing nonfiction essays during There There’s prologue and interlude, Tommy Orange offers up unflinching and gruesome depictions of the violence, cruelty, and attempted genocides which have ravaged and depleted indigenous peoples all over North, Central, and South America since the 1400s. With this legacy of generational trauma to confront each day, Orange suggests, modern-day Native communities increasingly turn to substance abuse and suicide to cope with the staggering weight of inherited pain, trauma…

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