Laughing Boy (novel)

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First edition (Houghton Mifflin)

Laughing Boy is a 1929 novel by Oliver La Farge about the struggles of the Navajo in Southwestern United States to reconcile their culture with that of the United States. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1930.

It was adapted as a film of the same name, released in 1934.

Plot[edit]

The novel is set about 1914, when the first motorized vehicle was driven into Indian Country. It concerns a boy named Laughing Boy who seeks to become an adult who can be respected among his Navajo tribe. They live in a place known as T'o Tlakai. He has been initiated into tribal ways, is an accomplished jeweler, and can compete favorably at events such as racing wild horses, which he has either caught or capably traded at market.

At a tribal event, Laughing Boy encounters a beautiful, mysterious young woman known as Slim Girl, and the two are soon attracted to each other. Complications arise immediately from her past experiences in the Indian Schools, boarding schools run under the auspices of the federal government for education and assimilation of Native Americans. Native American children were sent to these schools from numerous tribes. They were generally forced to give up their traditional ways in favor of adopting European-American culture.

These complications affect both his family's view of the relationship, and the relationship itself in ways that slowly unfold and intertwine as the novel progresses. It offers a rare glimpse into the Navajo lifestyle and territory.

The novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Adaptation[edit]

In 1934, Laughing Boy was adapted as a film of the same name, directed by W. S. Van Dyke. It starred Ramón Novarro as Laughing Boy and Lupe Vélez as Slim Girl.

References[edit]

External links[edit]