The novel Medicine River reflects a lot of realism, and Will Sampson, the main character, is an embodiment of the social realism. The novel is set in a traditional Native American society, and the characters reflect the values of this society. Just like the other societies, this one has some social norms that dictate the way people live their lives, and Will is assimilated in this lifestyle. Although Will came as an outsider, he infiltrates in the culture of this society and becomes a part of it. In fact, the culture, beliefs, aspirations and concerns of these people are shown through the character of Will. He is a professional photographer, and this profession makes him travel to Medicine River. Most of the conflicts and concerns in the novel arise in relation to Will’s profession.
Will’s profession is very important as it reflects numerous issues that are addressed in the novel, and the reader can deduce the effects of these issues on the protagonist, Will, and on the other characters. The whole society can also be understood from the perspective of Will’s photography. Will’s profession also displays his inner feelings of dissatisfaction towards his father, who abandoned his family when Will was young.
It should be noticed that photography seems to bridge the gap between the Native Americans and other American cultures. Probably, this is because people from other regions think that Native Americans are conservative people, who have nothing to do with the modern technology. For instance, Will attends a party in Toronto and meets a man, who is very surprised when he finds out that Will is a photographer. During all his life, this man believed that the Native Americans are very conservative and that they do not embrace things that seem to be foreign (King 125). The man adheres to a common belief that the Native Americans fear that the photographs will capture their souls. Therefore, all the native Americans will have an unmatched fear for the photographs and photographers (Parker 87). The fact of Will’s profession as a photographer is an indicator that King’s characters embrace technology and do not repudiate or fear for it. Will’s photography shows that the Native Americans have accepted technology and that they are not left behind in the wave of development. The photography also shows that people in Medicine River are not ignorant. On the contrary, they understand that many technological trends appear in the world, and they must not be left behind.
Will’s mother also gives her son a photograph of his father, which shows how the photographs can connect the present with the past. In this novel, the readers find out that Will’s father abandons the family, and the little boy lacks the confidence in fatherhood. Moreover, Will’s past has a huge influence on his future. Thus, there is a connection between the past and the present. Will Sampson is bewildered about the man who abandons his family, and the photograph links his past event to his present fear. In fact, this photo makes the readers understand the reason why Will Sampson is not married at the age of forty (Robinson n.pag.).
Will’s photography is also important in that it helps him find a common language with people from the different backgrounds. For instance, Will’s photography business makes him travel a lot. Therefore, Will understands others well and manages to interact with people from different cultures, religions and other affiliations. Will often visits other parts of the country together with his team. They also play games that are not associated with the traditional or Native Americans’ games. These games include watching football and playing basketball.
However, there is something that draws Will to his work revealing the aspects of his character and his heritage. Firstly, Will is drawn to photography in an attempt to reach out and connect with other people. He feels disconnected from the society since his father left him. Thus, he takes photography as a refuge. Will is in control behind the camera and this makes him feel in control of his life and the lives of other people. In fact, Will is very careful while working, but he constantly feels that he has not already got his best shot. He attempts to attain a social perfection using his camera and wants to ensure that all people are focusing on the camera and smiling. Therefore, Will chooses to join photography in order to seek a connection with other people. Will cannot get over his father’s betrayal, and the photograph that his mother gives him does not really cheer him.
Will’s character and heritage are revealed by his work as a photographer. First, Will fears commitment and remains unmarried even at the age of forty. Probably, this is because he has a photograph that reminds him of his father who also feared commitments and abandoned his family. Thus, Will does not wish to counter his father’s fate. However, Will cares for Louise and the child, and this is a reaction towards the irresponsibility of his father (Walton 79).
Will’s heritage is also revealed by this profession. He has been assimilated by the life of other cities but he feels comfortable in Medicine River. Will reflects the life of these people and takes photos that will be used for remembrance of the present in the future. For instance, Will still remembers the extended family from the photos taken.