Dance Hall of the Dead Social Concerns

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in Tony Hillerman's earlier Joe AsLeaphorn novel, The Blessing Way (1970), Dance Hall of the Dead stresses the importance of cultural identification to the establishment of a complete individual identity.

George Bowlegs, who never appears directly in the novel, is between cultures himself, attempting to leave his Navajo traditions behind in favor of the belief system of the Zuni people. Being "between cultures," as it were, Bowlegs has no personal identity as Hillerman sees it—although Bowlegs recognizes this and is attempting to remedy the situation—and therefore cannot personally appear in the novel. Joe Leaphorn, on the other hand, although having been exposed to white Anglo culture at Arizona State University and to many cultures through his study of anthropology there, has consciously chosen to follow the Navajo Way, and thus appears as a complete, mature, and sympathetic character to the reader.

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