Black Rainbow, by Albert Wendt, follows the story of a man who receives a Final Reference from the Tribunal, stating that he is now a Free Citizen and may essentially do whatever he pleases. Hotel attendants and car dealers fawn over him at the sight of his Final Reference, and he is able to gain access to restricted areas. However, after leaving the Tribunal with his Final Reference, the man discovers that his family is under the protection of the Tribunal. Later in the novel, this assumption is challenged with the idea that his family may have been ordered to be imprisoned.
This novel takes place from the perspective of the man who is first being questioned by the Tribunal, and then searching for his family and avoiding the hunters that seek him out. As the novel progresses, the audience members learn only as much about this society as the main character knows at any given point. He begins with an unfailing faith in the Tribunal and the society, but becomes less trusting of his surroundings as his time as a searcher continues. However, throughout the first half of the novel, he is still holding onto his beliefs in the Tribunal. He says, “She had no right attacking what I believed in. She had no right to be so arrogant,” speaking of the girl’s views on the Tribunal (144). This perspective is crucial to the experience of the reader of this book, because it places the reader alongside the searcher as he journeys through the mission set for him by the Tribunal. Though the reader may infer details about the society, the only real knowledge of the society comes through the realizations that the searcher has regarding his time spent with the Tribunal, his family’s whereabouts, and his mission.
These realizations often come about as other people show him the rules of the society of which he is unaware. One of the things he learns is that as a searcher, he is “supposed to go it alone” (122). He approaches the young people on the street, looking to hire them to help him find his family, and he is unaware that his status as a searcher would normally prohibit him from spending this time with them. He is unaware of this practice, however, and asks them to come with him. In this instance, and others, the readers learn of the practices of the society as the searcher learns of them himself, which forms much of the way the novel is experienced and processed by the readers.