The Soft–Hearted Sioux Research Papers
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Zitkala-Sa, author of The Soft-Hearted Sioux, presents the transformation of a boy from naivety to hard-heartedness as he confronts the traditions of his tribe against his Christian longings. Through the use of literary devices such as hyperbole and personification, Zitkala-Sa moves the reader to clearly feel the environment of the Sioux and experience the transformation of the narrator from a soft-hearted Sioux to a cold-hearted murderer.
Of all the devices that Bonnin utilizes in the story, the most effective is her use of hyperbole. Throughout the story, the narrator conjures brilliant images that bordered on symbolism yet were too absurd to be literal. For example, the narrator explains that he “hunted for the soft heart of Christ”, meaning that he searched to learn about Christ. In this same hyperbole, Bonnin uses irony as she juxtaposes a contrasting image of the huntsmen who chased buffalo on the plains to young man hunting for Christ in order to illustrate the differences in the nature of the two types of men in the tribe.
Further adding to the descriptive nature of the story is the use of personification. Many images in nature paint poignant illustrations of the setting of the story receive living qualities such as the following:
- “praire-grass were flying”
- “strong breath of winter”
These images manipulate the reader to sympathize with the narrator as he describes his world. For example, when he faces his father concerning his preaching, the narrator states that his eyes “swam in tears”. The image of the swimming tears evokes sympathy but as the story concludes, the personification aids the reader feeling the cold callousness that came over the narrator. An urgency soon emerges in the narrator as he flees his home and runs out in the night in shame because his father feels he cannot take care of his family. Suddenly the winds are “shrieking” the bars of his cell “howl”. His eyes turned “dry” and “eager” but his heart was strong. Hence the beginning images in the story personified softness while the ending images personified the hardness that had crept into the man’s heart that was driven to murder.