Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
"Tumbleweed" is a short fiction piece depicting the lifestyle of a group of young adults living in Santa Fe, New Mexico during the late 1980's. These people comprise a subculture of wanderers who travel the country on whims and who rely on tourism-related work for their ventures. In the manner of such works as On the Road, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Catcher in the Rye, "Tumbleweed" examines the role of the restless journeyman, a role which has played an important part of the American character.
This picaresque story gives an account of an ordinary day in the life of these young travelers. The narrator is a young man from the Midwest who has been led to Santa Fe to get a taste of the West and gain the experience of travel before settling into a more conventional lifestyle. He's like the other characters of the story in this way, motivated by a desire to quest and discover. With his reminiscences and flasbacks, the narrator provides a fuller sense of this subculture, its characters, and their way of life. The story does not have a conventional plot since it's intended to provide a flavor of this subculture rather than to focus on any particular occurrence.
In addition to the American travel theme, the story also explores the American idea of history, or more precisely, the unimportance of history in our culture. By world standards, Americans are history-less. What history and culture we do have tends to be borrowed. We're a society not so concerned with the way things were as with how they can be. This ties in with our adventurous nature and is a theme also expressed in "Tumbleweed." In addition, the story examines the influence of mass media in our society and how pop culture functions to bond Americans when history and common backgrounds fail to.
These themes and ideas are brought forward in the fiction and begin to influence the narrator. As the story progresses, a spark of the American journeyman fire begins to kindle within him as he realizes those things about this subculture which he enjoys and which tempt him. Hopefully the reader will get caught up in the narrator's zeal and share in his "vision," inspiring the reader to undertake similar ventures as well.
Fehrmann, John, "Tumbleweed" (1992). Masters Theses. 2167.