House Made of Dawn

BIG IDEA: Momaday uses his unique
perspective to examine, evaluate, and
explore the American condition –
specifically, the Native American
condition. In House Made of Dawn,
Momaday tragically illustrates that the
American Dream and Native American
culture are not always compatible.
 “ Th e fi s h es c o m e by t h e h un dre ds fro m t h e s e a . Th ey h url t h e m selves upo n t h e
l a n d a n d w ri t h e i n t h e l i g ht o f t h e m o o n, t h e m o o n, t h e m o o n; t h ey w ri t h e i n
t h e l i g ht o f t h e m o o n. Th ey a re a m o n g t h e m o st h e l pless c re a t ure s o n t h e fa c e
o f t h e e a r t h ” ( 7 9 ).
 “ … a n d s m all s i lve r sided fi s h es s praw l ed m i ndlessly i n c o rre l at ion to t h e ph a s e
o f t h e m o o n a n d t h e ri s e a n d fa l l o f t h e t i de s . Th e t h o ug h t o f i t m a de h i m s a d,
fi l le d h i m w i t h s a d, un n a m able l o n ging a n d wo n de r” ( 87 ) .
 “ H i s h a n ds we re bl a c k w i t h bl o o d a n d h ug e w i t h s we l ling , l i ke rubbe r g l oves.
Th e fo g t h i c kened a bo ut h i m un t i l h e c o ul d n o l o n ger s e e eve n h i s h a n ds. H e
h a d t h e s e nse t h a t h i s w h o l e bo dy wa s s h a king v i olent ly, to s sing a n d w h i ppi n g,
fl o ppi ng l i ke a fi s h ” ( 101 ).
1. What do the fishes symbolize? How can you tell?
2. What connotations does this symbolism present? What does it mean?
3. What is the tone of this excerpt? What ef fect does it have on you, the
reader? What impression do you get from the scene?
BIO: Worlds Collide
 Momaday was taken as an infant to Devil’s Tower
in Wyoming and given the Kiowa name “ Tsoaitalee” – Rock Tree Boy. From the beginning, Native
culture and tradition was an impor tant par t of his
 In 1946, the Momaday family moved to Jemez
Pueblo, NM, a home that would prove instrumental
in his under standing of white and Native America.
 In 1963, Momaday visited the Tai -me bundle, a
sacred Kiowa idol that was used in the Sun Dance.
The experience was incredibly moving and inspired
him to explore his Native roots.
 Awards:
 Momaday has received numerous accolades and awards,
most notably a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and, in
2007, the National Medal of Arts.
“The forces of
c i v i l i z a t i o n h av e
moved across
t h e p u e b l o l i ke
a g l a c i e r, a n d ,
in their path,
nothing can ever
be the same
C o nv e n i e n c e h a s
brought the old
a t te n d a n t i l l s .
Alcoholism has
become a
menace of
f r i g h te n i n g
d e l i n q u e n c y,
u n k n o w n to
Jemez in 1946,
is now a
(Schubnell 19)
“His upbringing was less than tribal,
and more than tribal. Unlike many
Indians who find themselves
trapped between two cultures, he
could draw on the benefits of both”
(Schubnell 15-16).
Thesis: Though Momaday undoubtedly represents
an impor tant milestone in the histor y of Native
American literature and culture, his distinctive
literar y voice transcends that specificity to take
on a univer sal significance.
the Native
 “He could see it still in the mind’s eye and hear in his memory
the awful whisper of its flight on the wind. It filled him with
longing. He felt the great weight of the bird which he held in
the other sack. The dusk was fading quickly into night, and
they could not see that his eyes were filled with tears” ( House
Made of Dawn 20).
 “The trapping and killing of a variety of birds throughout the novel
represents metaphorically the sense of imprisonment Abel feels
whenever he is forced out of the world he knows and is enmeshed in
the confusion of an alien culture” (Trimmer 230).
 “He had lost his place. He had been long ago at the center,
had known where he was, had lost his way, had wandered to
the end of the earth, was even now reeling on the edge of the
void. The sea reached and leaned, licked after him and
withdrew, falling of f forever in the abyss” ( House Made of
Dawn 92).
 “They have a lot of words, and you know they mean
something, but you don’t know what, and your own words are
no good because they’re not the same; they’re dif ferent, and
they’re the only words you’ve got…. And you want to do it,
because you can see how good it is. It’s better than anything
you’ve ever had; it’s money and clothes and having plans and
going someplace fast. You can see what it’s like, but you
don’t know how to get into it” ( House Made of Dawn 139).
 House Made of Dawn “reveals the deficiencies of American culture
and affirms the values of Indian culture” (Trimmer 228).

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