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Readings (due September 27)

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

1. SOCIAL CHANGE: La Farge depicts the extent to which contact with white settlers affected the Navajo way of life. For example, he often mentions the Navajo’s use of coffee and cigarettes, and depicts an unhealthy addiction to alcohol.


2. IDEOLOGY: Laughing Boy often sings hymns as the story progresses. There hymns are often sung in prayer, and their repetitiveness provides a sense of meditation in these prayers.


3. SYMBOLISM: Body adornment is very important in displaying ones wealth in the Navajo tribe. La Farge’s introduction of Slim Girl depicts this concept: she is garnished with extraordinary amounts of silver, turquoise, and white shell. Laughing Boy notes that, “…she must have a very rich mother, or uncles” (15).




[Nicole Rothman, ngr1@geneseo.edu, 10/22]

Laughing Boy

1. Even though this book is fictional, it provides insight into the Navajo culture while also providing an engaging story.

2. It was interesting to see the changes brought on by Americans and how there were both pros and cons to the Americans being there. Westernization was kind of forced upon them and they were pulled into American culture.

3. This book shows the importance of kinship and marriage to the Navajo culture.



Alfred Dilluvio ajd12@geneseo.edu 10/22

Laughing Boy

1. I think that this is more a creative attempt at revealing a fictional story rather than an ethnography having cultural information and significance. The author presents an image of the Navaho that they might not have themselves.

2. The story does much to show the significance of courtship, kinship, and marriage in traditional Navaho society.

3. This creative work of fiction does much to show the eagerness of some Navaho to adopt white ways. This eagerness and trust is often betrayed.


[Skye Naslund, sjn1@geneseo.edu 10/22/07]

Laughing Boy


1-The idea of love in Laughing Boy between him and Slim Girl is very interesting. It is not seen as culturally acceptable because she is Americanized and therefore not considered an eligible Navaho. The idea of status comes up often I their relationship as she as deemed as having very low status because of her history.

2-The idea that young men, while independent, must consult with family members before deciding to get married interested me. At the beginning of the book, Laughing Boy talked to his uncle about his ideas for marrying Slim Girl and his uncle told him he was crazy and that he should not marry her. The influence of elders here is very evident.

3-The recurrence of gambling throughout the book was interesting. I was under the impression that the association of Native Americans with gambling was strictly because of the Casinos on Indian Territory, but apparently the practice runs deeper than that, at least in the Navajo country.


To comment on the following readings, please first indicate your name, e-mail address, and the date of your post. Then, add your comments.


Example: [E. Kintz, kintz@geneseo.edu, 8/25]


Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge


Type your comments here . . .




[Heather Warren, hrw1@geneseo.edu, 9/30]


Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge


  1. This book seems more like a fictitious story rather than an ethnography. It makes me really suspicious of the validity of the content as true to the Navajo way of life.
  2. A benefit of the story-like quality of this work, however, is that it makes the information presented in the work more accessible to the general public, even if some of the accuracy may have been lost in the process.
  3. The sporadic interjections of traditional the Navajo language, through the songs and through the names of the characters, is an interesting element to this book. It gives a bit more insight into the Navajo. What people sometimes forget, however, is that, though naming people things like “Laughing Boy” seems a Navajo method, our own names from our own cultures once carried with them meanings of much the same thing. Simply look up the meaning of your name online sometime. I am, for example, named after a plant with little purplish pink flowers that is native to Europe. END




[Dave Roberts, dlr4@geneseo.edu, 10-1]


1.) It is worthy of note that people's names change with people's perceptions of them. I kind of wondered about this as I was reading but it didn't become noteworthy until the paragraph on page 42 talking about "Half Man," who at one time called "Wolf Killer" until an arrow injury stunted his growth and his place in Navajo society.


2.) La Farge's style of writing changes dramatically when writing through Slim Girl's "educated" point of view. While narrating from Laughing Boy's perspective, the prose is concise, simple, and to the point, but while narrating Slim Girl's thoughts, he writes in more Western, "literary" manner.




[Jennifer Ritzenthaler, jkr5@geneseo.edu, 10/2/07]


Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge


1. The writing often takes an almost melodic turn that captures part of the lifestyle that might not otherwise be shown. This may be simply a literary method to interest readers or it may intend to tell more about the Navajo.


2. This books make me curious about the occurrence of love between a Navajo and Navajo that turned American through education. While the

book seems to be fiction, I wonder if it may be based in some real life events.


3. Slim Girl intended to take her revenge out on an American man for the way another American man treated her, leaving her pregnant and alone. I wonder if this is part of her Navajo way, since many Navajo seem to be extremely forgiving, or if it is part of the American way that was educated into her. Is a need for revenge simply a part of every normal human being?





[Steph Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 10/2]


Laughing Boy - Oliver La Farge


1. The dichotomy between The People and Americans was revealed in many aspects, surfacing variations in lifestyle, appearance, attitude, dance, interpersonal relationships, and values. Slim Girl embodied many of these typically American behaviors, speaking boldly, desiring to remain rich and youthful by entering into town, lying, and exercising dominance and independence. Her resentment toward American culture allowed her to crossover, down into her childhood Navajo roots, in an attempt to regain the way of life she lost when placed in school. As Laughing Boy noticed, this created a river in her soul that divided her and gnawed mysteriously within him. This double life could not sustain either of them for long, and Slim Girl could only become whole once she was forced to cleanse herself of her vengeful motivations and give herself fully to her husband and Navajo life. I admired Laughing Boy for his willingness to understand how her regrettable past and the pressures she felt had instilled within her a mindset that could not be judged by that of a Navajo’s.

2. The four-day burial ritual that Laughing Boy went through was extremely powerful; this Navajo tradition allowed the grief and misery to surface in many forms – utter despair and loneliness to visions and memories and back again – which, combined with fasting and the sweat lodge, was like a purification of his soul. The prayers and chants he sung seemed to elicit the gods, and he could capture the beauty of Slim Girl and their love deeply embedded in the songs’ voices. After the fourth day it was as if lightness shone through Laughing Boy, carrying him forward to the upcoming village of friendly strangers, where life continued.

3. The end of the book reverberated for long after I finished – especially the lyric, “Never alone, never lamenting, never empty, Ahalani, beautiful!” Throughout the book, Laughing Boy was following a path of beauty, enchanted by Slim Girl’s unique glow. Ironically, Slim Girl was slain once she finally found her way home into the fullness of Navajo honesty and forgiveness. Her demise was tragic but somehow fitting, that her and Laughing Boy’s ultimate wholeness could carry him on past her earthly time. Had he not stayed with her at the end, he would likely have felt alone and empty, and been lamenting – It was the power of love that saved them both.






[Elen De Oliveira, emd10@geneseo.edu, 10/3]


Laughing Boy


1. This book is great because it not only provides a complicated love story which draws the reader in with every new chapter but also provides insight into the navajo culture. It covers all aspects of the culture from kinship and family to economics and social change.


2. Once again, as with Steve Tarbell's presentation, the power of names really surprised me. Each individual has a different name which comes with its own story and meaning and is unique to its owner. The writing style is also interesting. The short, to the point sentences leave the reader with the feeling that this is truly dialogue with Navajo and the descriptions of manipulating trade among other native processes were entertaining.


3. Along with the customs of the Navajo, it is interesting to be able to witness the changes that the Americans brought about in their way of life. Through Slim Girl we see the way that being exposed to the American way of living plays both a positive and negative role in her life. She is wealthier than ever before, and making her own money and living in luxury, but at the same time she has lost her ties with her Navajo culture, and is selling her body for the money that she makes. We also hear about the hatred she has for the Americans who took children away from their families for schooling.






[Dilek Canakci, dc11@geneseo.edu, 10/04]

Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge

I thought it was an interesting book overall but at the same time I thought the writing style changed a lot and raised a lot of questions in my mind. I think some of information mention in the book is based on true events and characters because I don’t think you can create such experiences in your mind, rather be inspired by someone’s life or something. The love story definitely made me want to read more because it was ambiguous and made me wonder what will happen next. But at the same time, it showed a lot about the Navajo culture and values.




[Rebecca Coons, rsc2@geneseo.edu, 10/05]

Laughing Boy


-The power of a name keeps being brought up in my classes this semester (well not so much in chemistry, but we've mentioned it in my linguistics class, as well as in film, and also we touched on it in my shakespeare class). "What's in a name?" I'll tell you, Juliet, A LOT! The idea that some cultures fear the power of their names has been brought up when we read Ishi as well.

-Also of note was the concept of revenge with Slim Girl. It seems like something that was taught to her by interaction with American culture and something people feel they should resent.

Americans and western civilzation in general needs to stop going into other people's cultures and taking their children to "educate them!!" Navaho Boy, Rabbit Proof Fence, and now this. It seems that this is way to common of an occurance in our own culture. It's like we're "teaching" their own culture right out from under them by making their own children, the future of the culture, embarrassed to be part of supposedly less civilized cultures. -END




[Dan McConvey, dpm5@geneseo.edu, 10/7]

Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge


The cultural limbo that Slim Girl lives in is very interesting to observe and it is admirable that Laughing Boy respects her difficult situation. I think it is very humbling to observe someone so resentful of the influence of Americanization. Slim girl has a very deeply rooted inner-struggle dealing with these split feelings. It really makes you think about he effects that society and culture can have on all of us. She has been taught to have some American desires that she would otherwise regard as inconsequential. She has a truly unique situation because she gets to see herself looking at culture from the outside in the sense that she can externally observe the effects of an American education and Americanization in general on her Navajo origins and upbringing.

I found no problem in the fact that this was a novel instead of a truly non-fiction ethnography. There is a genuine novel appeal to a purely factual accurate account of something but with fiction we are able to include an array of cultural factors that may not occur in a one time accurate account. Fiction allows us to include several things and tie them naturally into the storyline.




Adam Saunders, ars11@geneseo.edu, 10-9


Laughing Boy, Oliver la Farge


“Laughing Boy” despite being a work of fiction, holds well as being an ethnographic source. It gives us a peak into the lifestyles and culture of a native peoples and how they lived during that time period. It is especially convincing due to the usage of the Navajo language in many sections of the book, although I do not know if the language La Farge uses is accurate. La Farge paints for us a picture of a young man struggling to become a man.

We see the culture of their marriage systems and how Laughing Boy and Slim Girl go behind the backs of many of their own people in order to be wed and the hardships they must face because of it.

One of the most interesting points in the novel is the incite we are given on their betting system and ways of exchange. A large portion of which are done at the horse races, we are not told of this gambling system is part of their culture or one that was brought over by westerners but it seems to have caught on very well with the Navajo people.





[Jonathon Baker, jlb22@geneseo.edu, 10/5]



**Laughing Boy**** by Oliver LaFarge1- Social Change?- I felt that this novel really did a good job at evoking empathy and emotions in the reader. I feel that the perspective that this book provides on the Navajo, however, may not be all that acurate. This stems from the fact that it was written as a fictional novel, for entertainment purposes, not as an enthnography. 2- Social Change?- One scene I found very moving was the one where Laughing Boy purchases the “magic drink” (cheap whiskey) and goes off by himself to meditate. It shows how vulnerable the indian culture was to alcohol. If this sort of practice was regular, it’s easy to see why the Navajo nation ended up prohibiting alcohol sales.3- Kinship and Marriage- Of the facets of Navajo life we witness in the novel, this is probably the most well-described as obviously love and marriage are the subject matter of the plot. We see how Laughing Boy interacts with his family members and seeks their advice on things, even though in the case of marrying Slim Girl he listens to his heart and not the advice of his kinsmen.(11)(12)Laughing Boy(13)(14)Laughing Boy(15)Laughing Boy(16)(17)Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFargeLaughing Boy by Oliver LaFargeChange: This book does a good job in portraying how the Native Americans were trying to learn more about the white people’s ways and culture. An example of this is seen when laughing boy did not know the meaning of jail, here the reader can tell he was very interested to learn more about the American way of life because he wanted to ask more questions about the American’s ways but felt too ashamed to ask more questions. Another example of change seen throughout this book is how much the Navajo people were blending their culture with that of the western ways, for instance laughing boy mentioned that most Navajos wore hats like American and that he wished he had one too. The whole alcoholism issue is another example of change. Alcoholism took a different toll on these people lives and one example can be seen on page 22 where Red Goat was kicked out of his home by his wife because he had spent all his money on whisky. Page 40 was also interesting to read about this issue, because it just showed the opinion of these people on this new mysterious drink. In all alcohol showed the degeneration of some of the individual’s character. Change: Another thing I noticed was not only on how much the Native Americans were changing but how the Americans were changing these people. This is especially seen in the scene when the girl talking to laughing boy stated: “They wanted us to be ashamed of being Indians. They wanted us to forget our mothers and fathers” (page 57). Children were taken from their homes and brought to white schools, where the Native Americans were taught English and more importantly the negative image behind being an Indian. Environment**: It is very interesting to learn how the Native Americans view life and more importantly how they explain it according to their traditional norms. The Environment plays a major aspect in these people’s lives. They value their surroundings and this is often seen in the ceremonies they take part in such as dance, prayer, songs, all of which is seen in the book.













(Cameron Mack, cfm6@geneseo.edu, 10/9)


Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge


1. I agree that LaFarge's voice changes through the character of Slim Girl. It allows him to become more literary with his descriptions and depictions, whereas the tone is more abrupt yet concise with Laughing Boy. It was a nice change throughout the book to mix up the same style. I hadn't thought much about that aspect of the text before reading an earlier post.

2. Although the book does create a somewhat accurate portrayal of the Navajo people, it is important to keep in mind that book is a work of fiction. It is in no way a tale from the past Navajo, but I still found that the book did a good job of providing insight into the Navajo way of life. While it may not be as accurate as some textbooks it provides with thought provoking questions, at the least.

3. Looking at the Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge, this probably the most clear indicator of the Kinship and Marriage areas of a society under study. Given that the book is fictitious, it still provides insight about this essential part of a culture. In this case, it shows us the feelings surrounding marriage.



[Lanh Nguyen, ltn2@geenseo.edu , 10/10]



Change: The book showed how Native Americans viewed white culture not as a superior one, rather, a destructive influence on their way of life


Environment: Native Americans nurture their surroundings and land. This is projected through their ceremonies (dance, prayer, songs, etc…)


Alcoholism: This disease developed among the Navajos who stayed in the white culture. It showed their degeneration of their individual characters.




Charlie Genao cg7@geneseo.edu

1. It is kinda hard to understand that why would someone just take a child from thier culture and raise them and not even doing it propertly. It kinda makes me mad when people think that their culture is better than everybody else. It really screws them up because the are like the tragic mulatto in which they dont fit well in neither culture. Sometimes this kinda stuff remains me of my self. White America will always say that you are different no matter what you do so what is the point of assimilation in the first place.



[Larkin Kimmerer, llk5@geneseo.edu, 10-14]


-I was skeptical of this account because it is a fictitious love story, but the author spent time with the Navajo, it seems well-researched and thus a bit more valid.

-Slim Girl's cultural and individual identity were compromised because she did not really fit in either culture. This was almost always the case when we were shipped off to boarding schools. Many were not "white" enough to fit into American culture, but not "Indian" enough to return to their communities.

-Change was apparent in this book, with the white things that Slim Girl brought back from town, to the betting systems, and the introduction of whiskey to Laughing Boy.




[Lok Yung Yam, ly5@geenseo.edu , 10/14]



1. I thought it was very sad how the Navajo turned to alchohol, something brought to them by whites, to escape the situation the same whites put them in.


2. Although Laughing Boy is supposed to be fiction, it is written so realisticly, I would not be able tell whether or not it was a real narrative if I had not been told.


3. Even though it is fiction, Native American culture is still seen through Laughing Boy. Just to see how the Navajo lived is enough for us to learn a lot.



[Dan Lilly, djl5@geneseo.edu, 10/14]

Laughing Boy


I was careful about taking anthropologically taking anything away from Laughing Boy because the introductory note, La Farge says that the book is not supposed to teach, just amuse. Even so, its always interesting to see a Native American approach to "white" culture. The situation today really is kind of disgusting, when you really think about how these people inhabited all the land that we've now taken from them. It really must have seemed as though white people were poisoning nature with their presence and their culture, so its no surprise that it was seen as something destructive.





[Anne Kim, ak13@geneseo.edu, 10/16]




1.sw11@geneseo.edu, 10/18]











[Kaitlyn Northrop, krn3@geneseo.edu ]
Laughing Boy
1.) I noticed that the style of writing seemed to change throughout the book. I am not really sure what the purpose of this was, but it kept it interesting while reading.
2.) I really enjoyed the book because while telling a very good love story, it also told a lot about culture. It was informative while at the same time interesting.
3.) It was very interesting to see the Navajo turn to alcohol so easily. Just goes to show how easily someone can be influence when put into an inexperienced situation.
[Brendan Ryan, bmr4@geneseo.edu, 10/21]
Laughing Boy - Oliver LaFarge
1) With Laughing Boy we run into the same issue as with Nanook. Can something that is presented in the Narrative form be considered a legitimate ethnographic work? Oliver LaFarge certainly knows what he is talking about and has spent the requisite amount of time with the Navajo to be considered an expert. However when research is not presented in a strictly explanatory manner, it is being filtered at least slightly by the lens of the writer.
2) It was interesting to see how the supernatural pervades all facets of Navajo life. In contrast to the Christian world which seems to separate the holy from the normal everyday life of regular people the Navajo seem much more connected to the spiritual which is more like another part of the natural world that we just can't see.
3) The story of Laughing Boy and Slim Girl gives us an insight into the kinship and marriage practices of the Navajo. While I'm not sure I would consider this the most scholarly of the books we've read so far. I've taken much more away from this one than many others probably because it's style captures my easily distracted attention pretty easily and was a quick read.
{Isobel Connors, icc2@geneseo.edu, 10/22}
__Laughing Boy__ by Oliver La Farge

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