Character Analysis Christine


Like her daughter, Rayona, Christine is searching for a personal identity throughout her narrative section. However, Christine's search seems more destructive than her daughter's. Faced with a debilitating illness brought on by years of heavy drinking and prescription drugs, Christine faces the stark reality that she's dying and that no one believes her. Only now, at the end of her life, does she reflect on the destructive path that her life has taken.

Although Christine doesn't know it, Ida is not her biological mother, although Ida certainly is her emotional mother. Christine's mother is actually Clara, Ida's aunt and therefore Christine's great-aunt, whom she once meets in a Seattle hospital when Ida forces her to go. This unconventional genealogy symbolizes the reckless, devil-may-care life that Christine leads. As a teenager, Christine revolts from Ida and begins drinking and partying heavily. Whom she sleeps with is inconsequential to her. As long as she feels important to the men in her life, at least during her teen years, she doesn't care what other people think about her.

After her brother, Lee, is born, Christine defines herself through him. For example, she mothers him as though she, not Ida, were his mother. Later in life, when Lee faces enlistment in the military and the threat of fighting in the Vietnam War, Christine again defines herself in terms of him, but her actions are ultimately destructive, both to herself and him. Afraid that men won't be attracted to her because her brother is a draft dodger, Christine emotionally blackmails Lee into enlisting in the military, which he ultimately does. However, her guilt in Lee's enlisting is overwhelming later when she learns that he has been killed in the war. She must face the fact that she played a role in Lee's death by manipulating him to enlist and that she now faces total rejection from Ida, who idealized Lee.

Christine's personal search for identity culminates with her moving in with Lee's best friend, Dayton, on the Montana reservation. As she notes at the beginning of Chapter 16, "Dayton and I settled into the routine of an old married couple." The stability that she finds at Dayton's is ironic given that she fought Dayton emotionally and mentally over who would influence Lee's decision about whether to enlist or not; Dayton changes Christine's outlook on life. Before moving in with him, Christine had never found the life that she so desperately wanted with a man. For example, her unconventional married life with Elgin, Rayona's father, was anything but ideal. But with Dayton, she discovers the stable — though nonsexual — relationship that she's always wanted.

At the end of her narrative section, Christine finally seems at peace with the many relationships in her life. Concerning Rayona, she admits, "She was my miracle, and I knelt beside her." These two women's relationship, although unconventional, is a life-giving force to each. Dayton remains the bedrock on which Christine depends, not only because she's living in his house but also emotionally; by building a greater understanding between them, Christine is finally able to face the destructive role that she played in Lee's death. And concerning Ida, Christine acknowledges that they will always have a contentious relationship. Such conflict, however, can become something to rely on because these two women will always judge each other's actions but learn to accept each other.

Back to Top