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House Made of Dawn AP LIT
Terms in this set (56)
Abel is the protagonist of the novel. The other characters are important not only because of their stories but in how they reveal Abel's situation and their interactions with him. He is a veteran, an alcoholic, a murderer, and an orphan. His narrative overlaps significantly with federal programs that add to his isolation and challenges.
Ben is a pragmatic, straight-talking man who has moved from his home in Arizona to Los Angeles where he works in a factory. He is the primary narrator of the third section of the novel, "The Night Chanter." A mentor to Abel, he gives him his only coat when Abel leaves to return home to Walatowa.
Abel's grandfather is a farmer who has spent his life near Walatowa on the reservation. His daughter (Abel's mother) and grandson (Vidal) died, and he is virtually alone. He raised Abel, and he participated in his community rituals. He takes his grandson to see Fat Josie for injuries. Francisco recalls his life, and his mistakes, at the close of his life (which is the close of the book). Francisco seems to be one of the few characters who can be thought of as primarily "good."
Father Olguin is a peripheral character in the lives of the Navajo. He does not suggest the people's beliefs are "evil" as Fray Nicolás did in his letters and journal, but his understanding of the community is never fully there. He rereads the words of Fray Nicolás, imagines reactions from Angela St. John, but he does not minister to Abel when he is drunk or when he has lost his grandfather.
Angela St John
Angela imagines Abel as a bear. This ultimately leads to her telling her own son a story of the "Maiden and the Bear," a tale that resembles a traditional Native American story. She comes to the hospital when Ben calls her about Abel. Her affection for Abel is obvious. Like Father Olguin and John Big Bluff Tosamah, Angela exists on the fringes of the story. She is a factor in Abel's fate, but not a character who is truly well known to the reader.
John Big Bluff Tosamah
Tosamah is one of the characters who has a section of the book named after him: "The Priest of the Sun." He connects the Native American community in Los Angeles. However, he cannot understand the experience Abel and Ben (and a lot of people) are having. Although he—like Father Olguin—is isolated, he also connects to his parish through his sermons, a peyote ceremony, and sharing traditional tales.
native american veteran; quiet, connected to nature, often drunk.
Albino Native American Horseman
practical, Native American, blends modern + native cultures.
pregnant, impatient, white
John Big Buff
friends w/ Ben, unkempt Native American Preacher.
Abel returns from war to New Mexico
Abel meets and works for Angela St. John. Juan Reyes beats Abel with a rooster. Abel kills Juan Reyes. Abel is released from prison. Abel attacks Martinez and loses.
Abel returns home to New Mexico
Abel's grandfather dies.
Abel runs at dawn and sings.
The Longhair, 1945
Francisco picks up Abel, who fought overseas during WW2. Abel is drunk on arrival, unable to connect to grandfather, struggles with sense of displacement and w/ alcohol abuse. Local Priest, Olguin, helps Abel connect to Angela, who hires him to cut firewood. Narrative shifts from Olguin, to Angela, both are interest in Native American ceremonies. Juan Reyes, the Albino plucks rooster from ground, kills it by beating rooster on Abel who is bloodied with bird. Father Olguin studies predecessor's journals, Angela watches Abel lustfully. Abel thinks about childhood, mother's death, brother's death, capture of an eagle, time in combat. Angela and Abel have sex, Abel murders Albino whom he believes is a shape shifter.
The Priest of the Sun, 1952
LA, Abel is released from prison, has spent there seven years. Starts with John Big Buff, delivering sermon on biblical text about the word and a Kiowa story of Tai-me, says "Old John" got it wrong because he kept talking and complicating the story. Narrative shifts to Abel, contemplating the sea, suffering with pain, thinks of injuries and legs, and Fat Josie who healed him. He thinks of Angela through some poetry, and recalls trial six years earlier. Father Olguin perspective from third person about trial. Narrative switches back to Abel, thinking of being ill, shoes he owned, and Milly. Focus shifts to Tosamah, and a peyote ritual. Then to Abel thinking of war. Milly recalls childhood and daughter's death. Abel is aware he'll die of exposure if he doesn't move. Tosamah speaks of grandmother, her life and death. Narrates going to Rainy Mountain after death.
The Night Chanter, 1952
Ben's chapter, meets Abel after his release from prison, and offers him place to stay. Abel drinks a lot, Big Bluff does not like him saying he is a Longhair who won't let go of the past. Abel is quiet, warms up to Ben and Milly. Ben talks about the past, being on the land and meeting a woman Pony. Shifts to present and thinks of Abel's difficulties, and his inability to work well at the job and his parole officer. Eventually talks about Abel's hands being bruised by Martinez, who didn't cower to Martinez. Ben recalls Abel seeing the white woman, Angela, and trying to understand why Abel couldn't adjust. Drunk one night, Abel goes to find Martinez, and is beaten and missing for three days. Ben calls ambulance, calls Angela, who gets there and thanks him while she tells Abel a story about her child - maiden and bear. Ben tells him the Night Chant and signs it softly to him.
The Dawn Runner, 1952
Abel goes back to grandfather's house, he is dying. He waits, grandfather talks nonsense words which are then revealed through italic script to be memories from childhood + adulthood. The bear hunt, his romance with the woman Proncingula, their child who dies. The drumming, memories of being a grandfather. Francisco dies, Abel wraps him and dresses him and gives him to the Priest saying he must bury him. He leaves and starts running and chanting.
There was a house made of dawn.
this reference is at beginning and end. at the beginning, Francisco is running, at the conclusion, it's Abel.
He did not know who his father was....which made him...somehow foreign and strange.
The Longhair; theme of alienation established, further developed in novel.
He took hold of its throat in the darkness and cut off its breath.
The Longhair; Abel captures eagle, but when he sees it in bag, he is filled with shame and ends its life. Eagle described in majestic terms, but here it is enclosed and captured because of him.
She would have liked to...hold for a moment the hot blowing of the bear's life.
The Longhair; Angela St. John is purportedly thinking of a bear, but this is in the context of her interest in Abel. She has seemingly conflated the animal with the man. She thinks of this again later in connection with Abel, thereby stressing the parallel between Abel and the bear.
They came from nothing into sound and meaning.
Priest of the Sun; John Big Bluff Tosamah is telling of his grandmother, Aho, a Kiowa woman and storyteller. He refers to her belief words were "medicine" here, highlighting the Native American connection between religion, oral tradition, and words. The reader might also note these words can also allude to American author William Faulkner, who was known for his own use of complicated narrative structures in novels. Notably Momaday was very familiar with Faulkner's work.
He could not understand the sea; it was not of his world.
The Priest of the Sun; Abel, at this point, has repeatedly gone into nature for clarity and solace, but he is from the Southwest, which is a very different landscape. He isn't connecting to the city or to the land where he is now (Los Angeles). In this situation he is in pain, injured, and alone, but unlike when he has felt this (in earlier examples in the book) he is not finding refuge even though he is in as much nature as there is to be found in an urban area like Los Angeles.
A man kills such an enemy if he can.
The Priest of the Sun; Momaday has cited, on multiple occasions, a case where a man committed murder because of his belief the victim was a shape-shifter. That case was influential. Juan Reyes, an albino, was thought to be a witch—an enemy to kill.
He threatened to turn himself into a snake, for crissake, and rattle around a little bit.
The Night Chanter; This alludes to the belief the albino, Juan Reyes, was a shape-shifter and therefore able to become a snake. It also highlights a difference between Abel, who was born and raised on the reservation, and Tosamah, who was not raised on a reservation and who was able to assimilate.
They have a lot of words, and ... your own words are no good.
The Night Chanter; Words are powerful things, but communication requires more than speech. The thematic role of words, story, and communication in the novel is highlighted here too. Abel was tried and committed for a crime to him was an act of self-defense (killing an enemy). Many of the difficulties he experiences in the novel come from speaking different languages. The reference isn't just to literal languages, like English, but to experience, understanding of the land and environment and culture that affect how people respond to people and experiences they are exposed to.
And you were there where you wanted to be, and alone.
The Night Chanter; Ben Benally is recalling being on the reservation, in nature, at peace. This is among the things that are lost to him, Abel, and all of the displaced Native Americans in Los Angeles.
Maybe it was Tosamah, too, and that white woman, everything.
The Night Chanter; Ben Benally is thinking about the many difficulties Abel has experienced. He was already struggling when he returned from prison, but he was met with hostility from John Big Bluff Tosamah and the reminder of the woman he had known briefly before prison, as well as by violence from Martinez and a lack of community.
He didn't come back for three days.
The Night Chanter; The example of being gone for three days calls to mind rituals such as vision ceremonies and peyote ceremonies. It also recalls the Christian story of Jesus who was dead for three days. In all these cases, the person returning has changed.
He was born of a bear and a maiden, she said, and he was noble and wise.
Ben is shocked because the myth of the maiden and the bear Angela St. John tells is akin to the story of the Changing Bear Maiden, a Navajo story. The reader will note this is much like the connections John Big Bluff Tosamah draws between the Kiowa story of Tai-me and the Christian Bible. This thematic thread continues to emphasize the power stories have to transcend culture.
It was the room in which he was born, in which his mother and his brother died.
There is a cycle, a long thread to the past, a connection to both life and death in the room where Abel waits for his grandfather's last moment. Home is where you are born, live, and die. This is the reality for Francisco—one the relocation programs disrupt.
And he held on to the shadow and ran beyond his pain.
This ceremonial running signifies Abel is connecting back to his culture, his land, and his heritage. He is running as his grandfather once ran. It closes the novel on an optimistic note.
House Made of Dawn
The house made of dawn is not only an image referenced in the beginning and at the end of the novel, but it is also the source of the title. It is the opening line to a Navajo prayer. Ben recites the prayer in the section "The Night Chanter." The lengthy prayer, which is included in the novel, speaks of what is and of peace. "As it used to be long ago, may I walk. / Happily may I walk." It seeks beauty in many directions: before, behind, below, above, all around. This type of prayer is notably absent in the discussions of "evil" found in Fray Nicolás's letters. It is a contrast with the federal government's policies and programs of relocation, and it is at odds with John Big Bluff Tosamah's urging to assimilate and forget the past.
The albino, Juan Reyes, is a character, but he is also a symbol. Throughout the novel he is regularly called the "white man" instead of albino or by his name. He is representative of the living ideas of myth made flesh. There was an episode at Jemez the author cites as a source for the novel. In this case an albino was killed because he threatened to turn into a snake and bite a man. If one believes in the shape-shifting ability of albinos—as Abel clearly did—the action of murder makes sense. Moreover, Abel's stance that "a man kills such an enemy if he can" is logical. The murder is not judged by Abel's peers; it is judged by a court that does not understand the threat Abel saw in Juan Reyes. It is symbolic of the difficulty of living between two worlds. Abel was considered to have acted within the realm of acceptable behavior when he took lives during World War II. But here he is considered a killer for eliminating a threat.The albino, Juan Reyes, is a character, but he is also a symbol. Throughout the novel he is regularly called the "white man" instead of albino or by his name. He is representative of the living ideas of myth made flesh. There was an episode at Jemez the author cites as a source for the novel. In this case an albino was killed because he threatened to turn into a snake and bite a man. If one believes in the shape-shifting ability of albinos—as Abel clearly did—the action of murder makes sense. Moreover, Abel's stance that "a man kills such an enemy if he can" is logical. The murder is not judged by Abel's peers; it is judged by a court that does not understand the threat Abel saw in Juan Reyes. It is symbolic of the difficulty of living between two worlds. Abel was considered to have acted within the realm of acceptable behavior when he took lives during World War II. But here he is considered a killer for eliminating a threat.
Abel's recklessness is a symptom of the disillusionment he feels as an American Indian faced with the jarring disparity between reservation life and the lifestyle of the modern American city.
Father Olguin sees Abel's murder as _________
Abel went to prison for how many years?
Abel's conflict in LA
Yet Abel's decline in Los Angeles does not hurt anyone other than himself, as he returns to Ben's apartment nearly beaten to death.
transfer of role from generation to generation
One of the things the ceremonial run at dawn signifies is the...
Francisco's connection to nature.
Francisco is not only sensitive to what the environment has to tell him, but also seems to have the power to know what will happen next.
Ben is parallel to what character in Walatowa?
Milly is parallel to what character in Walatowa?
Priest of the Sun is parallel to whom in Walatowa?
to sing the song House Made of Dawn Together
Like Francisco, Abel leaves Ben, but with a promise to come back and .....
Expression of Native American Culture through Storytelling
Similarly, the Priest of the Sun had learned the stories from his grandmother, who was "a storyteller, she knew her way around words. She never learned to read or write...." The priest of the sun goes on to say that the difference in language between the two cultures, Native American and the "white man's world," is the value placed in words. In the white man's world there are words by the millions, on pamphlets, papers, receipts, advertising, and so on. For his grandmother, on the other hand, the word was a sacred object, attached to a story close to her thoughts and her experience. Words could never be sold, and she would never throw her words away. In this context of the sacredness of just a few meaningful words, Abel's mysterious reserve and quietness make sense.
Tempo of Life
"The Night Chanter," Ben Benally dwells on the conflict between the pace of life in a more rural setting of the reservation—such as Walatowa or the Wild Ruins where he grew up—and city life as a factory worker in Los Angeles. Life in L.A. is "all around you and you can't get a hold of it because it's going on too fast...." the only way of life is working twelve hours a day and than going straight to the bar and drinking to unwind. The aim of all this work is to get a piece of something: a house, a car, anything. Back at home on the reservation, however, Abel cuts wood he takes his time, coming back three days later to finish his job. On the reservation, however, that is accepted, as there is a feast and ceremonies that take precedence in the meantime. Material goods, which take such precedence in the modern society of L.A., can be traded for or worked out in different transactions on the reservation. Whereas Ben is able to reconcile these two vastly different paces of lifestyle in the city and reservation, he sees that Abel is unwilling or unable to do so, and likely never will.
Lots of Holy Men characters in Abel's life that somehow influence his journey.
1. Olguin: connects him to Angela, burries Francisco, knew Abel before war.
2. Fray Nicolas: influence through Olguin and Francisco; thinks Francisco is evil, thinks he's had affair with Porcingula. Describes Juan Reyes' birth.
3. Priest of the Sun: direct presence, full section of novel dedicated to him. Strong presence in NA community in LA, connection between reservation/past and off-reservation world. Uncomfy w/ Abel, Kiowa, his sermon on words.
4. Ben prays alot, and he prays quietly for Abel. He prays the House Made of Dawn.
Isolated from cultural connections: does not know father's origins, his mother dies, his brother dies. Alienated as soldier in war on foreign soil. Return to reservation, fails to connect. Finds solace in nature. In LA, there is no connection to land or people, does not understand sea. Connection via community is absent outside reservation, it is almost unattainable for Abel. Isolation relieved through physical connection to women or Earth.
Nature is related to the title of the book, and it is a central theme in the novel. It is within nature Abel searches for clarity. When he first returns to the reservation, Abel goes out into the land to think: he "stood without thinking, nor did he move, only his eyes roved after something ... something." This connection to nature is not restricted to Abel. Most of the characters within House Made of Dawn have an awareness of nature and its rhythms. Angela envisions Abel as bear/badger. Ben shares Night Chant w/ Abel. Lots of natural imagery.
symbolizes a sinister luck: the smelt fish throw themselves on the beach in the light of the moon, allowing any fisherman to pick them up with his hands; furthermore, the light of the moon allows the entire community to work all night on the farm, as Francisco recalls. Like the fish, the geese Abel and Vidal hunt are distracted by the moon, allowing Abel to successfully shoot one of the birds
The rain in various scenes of House Made of Dawn symbolizes a form of convergence that results in dramatic events. It rains when Abel and Angela first make love, it rains after Francisco dies, and when Abel leaves Los Angeles to return to Walatowa. Abel's murder of the Albino—arguably the climax of the novel—happens during a torrential rain that spreads the albino's blood all over the surrounding earth.
One of Abel's most notable childhood experiences was his membership in the Eagle Watchers Society. He sees an eagle carry a snake across the sky, and after telling the leader of the society of what he has seen he is allowed to go with the society on an eagle hunt. After he captures a magnificent eagle and another member captures a second eagle, they let one of the birds go and watch it fly off. As Abel watches the eagle disappear, he is filled with longing, as for him the eagle is symbolic of an unknown form of freedom.
The running at dawn
In this symbolic act, Abel reconnects himself to his life in Walatowa and accepts the responsibility and heritage passed down to him from the previous generations.
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