The author of The Way to Rainy Mountain is Navaree. Scott Momaday. He was born on February 27, 1934 in Lawton, Oklahoma and is still alive today. He is Kiowa-Cherokee and is a writer from Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona; which helps explain his novel The Way to Rainy Mountain. It is plausible that it is dedicated from his own life, seeing as how it is about the Kiowas and he is part Kiowa himself. His father, Al Momaday, was a painter and his mother, Natachee Scott Momaday was Cherokee. This is significant because in his novel, it shows that the Kiowas are allies with the Cherokee as well as the Camanche. By suggesting that they are allies, he is relating the novel partially to his life because his parents got along well.
Because Momaday’s parents were Kiowa and Cherokee, he was exposed very much to the culture of the two different tribes, in which he was able to balance out well within his book. From the encouragement of his parents, he was able to publish his book consisting of both the tribes and his own story. Momaday was also born during the depression, which could explain how when he mentions one of the characters within the story that was very wise and independent, it may somehow incorporate how he felt during the time of his childhood and how he was emotionally and mentally strong, just like his character. Being Native American and being exposed to the various cultures of the many different tribes helped influence his book and allowed it to develop. Especially when traveling from Oklahoma, to New Mexico to Arizona, he is able to take out and learn many things from his very own discoveries, giving birth to his various novels.
Form, Structure, and Plot
The novel was 88 pages long consisting of a preface, a prologue, an introduction and three chapters titled: “Setting Out”, “The Going On” and “The Closing In”. All of the chapters contain small sections that covered just two pages that are separated by roman numerals. These mini sections in the chapters all seemed to be tribal tales that were passed down to following generations of ancestry through to the younger generations ever since the beginning of the Kiowa tribe. These tales go in a chronological order sequence that connects with one another in order to script the life of the Kiowa tribe from its origin to its end. The plot seems somewhat complex because the story is being narrated by old tribal stories that are being passed down orally. It is a little confusing to follow but it allows the reader to know a little bit more about the Kiowa’s culture and beliefs at a better understanding.
The time that was covered throughout the novel was not stated very clear. It was from elderly generations to around the year of 1875 to where it actually declined. The novel was covered from the beginning of the Kiowa tribe, to its end where civilization and industrialization took over their lands. Throughout the novel, it develops into a more serious context. At the beginning, it started out simpler. The stories were very short, and it was usually about someone meeting another person. And once the novel got closer to its end, the short stories within it seemed to begin getting more intense, such as people killing each other and such. The beginning of the novel had nothing compared to the violence being brought out closer to the end. The thing that the beginning and end had in common seemed to be was that when there was a problem, there was always a way to solve it, or it had some sort of ending. Momaday was always able to structure each of the small tales this way.
Point of View
Momaday places this novel in first person point of view in past tense, in which he is the observer, not a participant. Throughout the novel, it looks as if the point of view remains constant as first person point of view, but it turns out that once the reader reaches the chapters, it is easier to see that there is a small point of view shift in every mini section of the novel. Each mini section starts out with first person because he is observing the current tale taking place. The next paragraph after the tale appears to suddenly shift to third person. This paragraph that is third person is limited because Momaday uses this to describe his own feelings. The third person point of view paragraph may mention other people, but it focuses on his own feelings and thoughts, not the other characters; they are merely just objects in his narrative to help him move it along. He also uses first person point of view for the tribal tales because he is trying to describe to the audience how it looked to him, through his own eyes.
By using a very reminiscent-like point of view written in past tense, Momaday is able to emphasize further on his feelings towards the different situations occurring with the Kiowas and even with himself. Momaday also chose to use a limited point of view rather than an omniscient point of view because it helps the readers focus more closely on how he feels and thinks during the times he is mentioning. If he was to use omniscient, then the thoughts he would be trying to place would be scattered everywhere, possibly even through random, all around the entire novel. It seems that Momaday wants his readers to feel how much the Kiowa meant to him and the rest of his family; especially to him. The death of his grandmother seemed to have the biggest effect on him than anything, and it seemed that he wanted his audience to know how important she was to the tribe, and the way she was; both towards people and her own unique character.
In The Way to Rainy Mountain, there are many different characters that allow the plot to develop. Its main focus is on Native Americans in the United States, but to be more specific, Momaday focuses on the Kiowa tribe that is allies with the Camanche. There are many different small characters, and all characters, whether major or minor, are presented and introduced into the story through indirect characterization. Rather than presenting them bluntly to his audience, Momaday uses indirect characterization in order for the readers to figure out what kind of person the characters are themselves and figure out how their significance is important. There were many characters within the novel, but there were no specific protagonists and antagonists.
One of the main characters that Momaday seems to focus on more is the Grandmother named Aho. Just as all the other characters, she is introduced through indirect characterization and she grows older with age as the story continues to move along. She could be described as mentally strong, wise and respected. Because of the way she is presented, it seems that she is like the old woman in the tribe that everyone seems to go to when they need advice because she is offered within the story as the very wise one. It is made obvious that she is one of the oldest and wisest of the Kiowa tribe when Momaday says, “Although my grandmother lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continental interior lay like memory in her blood.” (7) When Momaday says “the immense landscape of the continental interior lay like memory in her blood” (7), he is suggesting that she knows her land well, just like many other things she knows quite well, giving her character the edge to appear one of the wisest in the tribe. When Momaday also says that his grandmother “lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain” (7), he is letting his audience know that his grandmother is at a very old age. As people tend to get older, they get wiser along the way. By emphasizing that she is quite elderly, it helps show that she must be very wise and judicious since she has learned many things along the years through experiences she has been through.
Another character within the novel was Momaday himself. His age changes throughout the novel because he continues to grow older along with the time. He was not described physically within the novel because he was the one narrating the story, which was his main function in the entire story. He could be described as caring, cultural and as a dreamer. You could see that Momaday that he is very caring and is a dreamer when he says, “Now and then in winter, when I passed by the arbor on my way to draw water at the well, I looked inside and thought of the summer.” (61) When Momaday said this, he was talking about the time after his grandmother’s death, and that he would pass by where he would stay when he was staying with his grandmother. Because it was right after her death, he would walk by it and reminisce back to the past and remember the good times he had with her. This quote shows that he is very caring because he still cannot forget about his grandmother, who seemed to influence him a lot. It also shows that he is a dreamer because he can still imagine the way it was before, suggesting his imagination still gets the best of him, even at times of great depression. You can also tell that he is very cultural just by with the novel that he is writing. He wrote a novel just about the culture and different ways of the Kiowa, with the influence of his grandmother.
Momaday’s novel The Way to Rainy Mountain happened within the mid 1800’s – 1900’s. The novel occurs around the area of Rainy Mountain which is described as many mountains and plains. Surrounding and on Rainy Mountain itself, it seemed to be drastic seasons such as blizzards in the winter, very hot tornado like winds in the spring and a very burning hot/dry summer. Within this sort of setting, it seems that the Kiowa tribe spends much of their time under the boiling rays of the sun. When in tribes such as these, it is always important to stay together. Because they are always surrounded by the sun, the sun in this setting could represent the togetherness of the tribe. The harsh like weather conditions such as the blizzards in the winter, hot tornado like winds in the spring, and the burning hot/dry summer could symbolize the Kiowa tribe’s fight through all the obstacles they have had to face. Tribes within areas such as these are bound to have enemies, and go through many hardships. Describing the terrible weather conditions within the setting gives a sort of atmosphere that helps show how hardworking and devoted this tribe is to surviving and sticking together.
The setting is very important to the story, because it shows a different level of survival. For example, a person that lives in constant, neutral weather would not give as much effort in having to push for survival compared to someone that lives in a place that is either always cold or always hot. Because this tribe had to live in an environment with extreme temperature fluctuations, their struggle for continued existence was immense; they would have to try twice as hard to keep their population healthy while the other community living in the constant temperature environment could live quite calmly, knowing that they would have no problems. By suggesting that the Kiowas lived in a harsh setting, it helps show how strong they are and how much they had to go through in order to pull through.
Momaday’s word choice within The Way to Rainy Mountain seemed to be very neutral. For example, when he says, “The journey began one day long ago on the edge of the northern Plains. It was carried on over a course of many generations and many hundreds of miles. In the end there were many things to remember, to dwell upon and talk about” (3), he is able to put together a combination of lyrical, formal and colloquial context within his novel. When he says, “It was carried on over a course of many generations and many hundreds of miles” (3), it gives the language seems somewhat lyrical because of the utilization of the word “many” and its placement within the sentence. It gives a sort of bouncy feel behind it. It seems quite formal when Momaday says, “one day long ago” and “dwell upon”. These certain words help give a sense of educational background, especially the word “dwell”. Momaday’s text is also given as colloquial when he says, “there were many things to remember” and “talk about”. These words seem to pop up in everyday conversation, giving his text a colloquial taste.
There is some dialogue, but not as much as expected. At most, there are around 10 pieces of dialogue throughout the entire novel. The dialogue is from the characters within the mini sections, there is never dialogue coming from the narrator. However, between the different characters, it seems as if the dialogue seems to appear the same. This could possibly be because it is only Scott Momaday writing the entire novel, not five different people, making the dialogue constantly similar throughout the book. The dialogue is used simply to help move the tribal tale along, and make things somewhat clearer. It seemed that Momaday relied more on narration to move his stories along, but the dialogue was added to help the smaller ideas appear more clear.
Diction Passage 1: “They lived at first in the mountains. They did not yet know of Tai-me, but this is what they knew: There was a man and his wife. They had a beautiful child, a little girl whom they would not allow to go out of their sight. But one day a friend of the family came and asked if she might take the child outside to play. The mother guessed that would be all right, but she told the friend to leave the child in its cradle and to place the cradle in a tree. While the child was in the tree, a redbird came among the branches. It was not like any bird that you have seen; it was very beautiful, and it did not fly away. It kept still upon a limb, close to the child. After a while the child got out of its cradle and began to climb after the redbird. And at the same time the tree began to grow taller, and the child was borne up into the sky. She was then a woman, and she found herself in a strange place. Instead of a redbird, there was a young man standing before her. The man spoke to her and said: “I have been watching you for a long time, and I knew that I would find a way to bring you here. I have brought you here to be my wife.” The woman looked all around; she saw that he was the only living man there. She saw that he was the sun.” (22)
Diction Passage 2: “After that the woman grew lonely. She thought about her people, and she wondered how they were getting on. One day she had a quarrel with the sun, and the sun went away. In her anger she dug up the root of a bush which the sun had warned her to never go near. A piece of earth fell from the root, and she could see her people far below. By that time she had given birth; she had a child-a boy by the sun. She made a rope out of sinew and took her child upon her back; she climbed down upon the rope, but when she came to the end, her people were still a long way off, and there she waited with her child on her back. It was evening; the sun came home and found his woman gone. At once he thought of the bush and went to the place where it had grown. There he saw the woman and the child, hanging by the rope halfway down to the earth. He was very angry, and he took up a ring, a gaming wheel, in his hand. He told the ring to follow the rope and strike the woman dead. Then he threw the ring and it did what he told it to do; it struck the woman and killed her, and the sun’s child was all alone.” (24)
Diction Passage Explanations
Diction Passage 1 Explanation: The word choice within this particular passage seems to be both colloquial and formal. It has some formal in it such as: “They did not yet know of Tai-me”. This is suggested as formal because it avoids the use of contractions and the word placement such as how it says “did not yet know” gives a sense of an educational background to it; making it not colloquial. However, it was mostly composed of colloquial diction such as: “The mother guessed it would be all right”. This allows the sense of colloquial because it seems as if it were used in everyday language by anyone. The diction helps define that the sun god is very forceful and that the girl that was being taken was very timid and did not really seem to defend herself.
Diction Passage 2 Explanation: The word choice within this passage may seem somewhat formal because of the word “quarrel” but it seemed to be more colloquial as well. It seems like Momaday was putting things very simple such as: “After that the woman grew lonely.” Sentences such as these are used in everyday life. The diction is able to help define the character more because when Momaday said, “he was very angry”, he was able to put emphasis on how much the sun god was livid because his wife was trying to escape with their child. Just by adding the simple “very”, Momaday was able to push the entire story forward into its own direction.
The sentences seem to be predominantly simple, as well as complex. For example, one of the fairly simple sentences would be, “The imaginative experience and the historical express equally the tradition of man’s reality.” (4) What makes this sentence so simple is that it only speaks of “man’s reality” with just two things balancing it out such as “imaginative experience” and “the historical”. The sentence was short, and to the point, making the point as simple enough for the audience to know immediately that Momaday is trying to tell them that life is based on past experiences and imaginations. An example of a complex sentence would be “Finally, then, the journey recalled is among other things the revelation of one way in which these traditions are conceived, developed, and interfused in the human mind.” (4) This sentence is made complex because of the various ways Momaday explains how the journey could affect a person mentally. This sentence is also presented with parallel structure. The parallel structure is within the area where he mentions that the traditions were “conceived, developed and interfused”. By lining up the different procedures that a journey can affect a person, they are able to show that these different procedures have the same effect on the person’s mentality because no matter what, the person will be affected. There are a few sentence fragments such as when Momaday says, “The buffalo were gone.” (10) Momaday uses fragments in order to help make the point being made more obvious to his readers.
The sentences vary from simple, to complex, to simple fragments and anything between. This sort of sentence structure allows Momaday to make points attempting to be made more clear and obvious to his audience in order for them to get a better understanding of what he is trying to say. He is able to achieve this goal because with the way that his sentences are structured, the audience is able to retrieve a better understanding of what is happening.
Syntax Passage and Explanation
Syntax Passage: “They lived at first in the mountains. They did not yet know of Tai-me, but this is what they knew: There was a man and his wife. They had a beautiful child, a little girl whom they would not allow to go out of their sight. But one day a friend of the family came and asked if she might take the child outside to play. The mother guessed that would be all right, but she told the friend to leave the child in its cradle and to place the cradle in a tree. While the child was in the tree, a redbird came among the branches. It was not like any bird that you have seen; it was very beautiful, and it did not fly away. It kept still upon a limb, close to the child. After a while the child got out of its cradle and began to climb after the redbird. And at the same time the tree began to grow taller, and the child was borne up into the sky. She was then a woman, and she found herself in a strange place. Instead of a redbird, there was a young man standing before her. The man spoke to her and said: “I have been watching you for a long time, and I knew that I would find a way to bring you here. I have brought you here to be my wife.” The woman looked all around; she saw that he was the only living man there. She saw that he was the sun.” (22)
Syntax Explanation: Within this passage, it seems that Momaday is creating an effect of compiling all of the facts within the story into the readers’ head by the use of simple sentences. One fact is that the mother is very cautious about her daughter. By using the word “guessed” when she was going to let their friend take their daughter outside to play, it showed that she had to think about it. It helps define that her character is much more responsible. It also helps further the plot of this tale because it seemed that she had a sort of bad feeling about it but let her friend take her daughter out anyway. By giving that sort of tone, Momaday was able to create foreshadowing, which helped the plot develop.
Momaday is able to appeal to all give senses within his novel The Way to Rainy Mountain. An example of appeal to sight would be: “There are green belts along the rivers and creeks, linear groves of hickory and pecan, willow and witch hazel.” (5) This is obviously sight because you can imagine a large grassy area surrounding long, flowing rivers. An example of appeal to hearing would be: “She made long, rambling prayers out of suffering and hope, having seen many things.” (10) Although you can visually see someone rambling prayers, you can hear what they are saying as well. When Momaday says that her prayers were out of “suffering and hope”, he is able to emphasize that he could hear her prayers, and how depressing they seemed to be. An example of appeal to touch would be: “The grass turns brittle and brown, and it cracks beneath your feet.” (5) You may see that the grass can turn “brittle and brown”, but it is definitely a sense of touch when you can feel as it “cracks beneath your feet”. The word “cracks” helps you feel that it is actually scratching and crackling under your bare feet, giving you that disgusted, dry feeling. An example of appeal to taste would be: “One of the boys held the calf’s liver-still warm and wet with life-in his hand, eating it with great relish.” (25) Although this quote does not describe the taste of the object, just by describing what it is gives the reader a sense of disgust; such as how Momaday mentions that it is a “calf’s liver” and that it is “still warm and wet with life”. With this specific knowledge, it allows the reader to imagine how it looks and makes them wonder how it would taste; thus appealing to the readers’ taste. An example of appeal to smell would be: “The giant had killed a lot of people in the past by building fires and filling the cave with smoke, so that the people could not breathe.” (32) This appeals to the sense of smell because of the “smoke” that was “filling the cave”. Generally, when people think of smoke, they first think of the way it smells and how it forces them to cough and how difficult it is for people to breathe and whatnot. This appeal allows the reader to actually imagine the smell of the smoke as well as visualize how it looks within a cave and such.
The function that the imagery seems to have is to emphasize and add further description of the events being told within the novel. Without the imagery and concrete detail present within the novel, the situations would not be as well described as it should be, and it would be harder for the readers to understand what is actually happening.
The Way to Rainy Mountain was very symbolic. It was symbolic in that it was able to describe the Kiowa’s culture, traditions and their basic way of life. A symbol within the novel would be Tai-me. Tai-me was the sacred sun-dance doll. It could symbolize the worship the tribe has to the sun and how thank they are to have the sun replenish their life, and provide a healthy community. especially because they spend most of their time around it. Another symbol could be the actual summer that takes place every year. It could symbolize the tribe’s happiness and togetherness because everyone within the tribe seems to get along just fine. One very important symbol, however, would be the great spider. “He made his way to it and saw that a great spider-that which is called a grandmother-lived there.” (26) Momaday uses this quote to make it very obvious that the grandmother is a very crucial part within the novel. He uses a “great spider” as the grandmother’s symbol because the spider is a very hardworking, smart insect. By using a spider, it is able to show that his grandmother was also very hardworking, and emphasize that she was old and wise.
These symbols seem to function as the novel’s main attention. It appears that Momaday has an extensive use of symbols in order to emphasize more on the points being made and especially on characters. The character that is most important within the novel seems to be the grandmother. Momaday used a spider to pose as the symbol for her, and by using this, it is able to emphasize her wise character. Tai-me is also another symbol used for exaggeration to show that the tribe enjoys the sun very much, and that they are very appreciative towards its purpose upon them and the world.
Momaday uses an extensive use of figurative language for emphasis on other points being made. He seemed to be using a lot of similes and a few metaphors. An example of a simile that Momaday used was: “Although my grandmother lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continental interior lay like memory in her blood.” (7) This quote was used to show how Grandmother Aho knew the land like the back of her hand. In other words, she knew it like it was something accustomed to her, like it was not hard to even memorize at all. Another example of a simile would be: “There was a great holiness all about in the room, as if an old person had died there or a child had been born.” (37) This quote was used to emphasize the atmosphere given in the room everyone was in. Momaday compares it to an old person dying or a baby being born because he is trying to emphasize how much amazement is going on. People are amazed by newborn babies, and some people are amazed at other peoples’ deaths because they just cannot believe that it has actually happened. Momaday uses many more similes within his novel to help emphasize other given details.
He also uses metaphors in order to put an even bigger edge of emphasis to the detail being described. An example of a metaphor would be: “A word has power in and of itself.” (33) Momaday uses this metaphor to emphasize how much a word could actually mean something. If a word means so much, then a speech could mean just so much more. By saying that the word has “power in and of itself”, he is able to exaggerate that words have a bigger effect on things than we would think. Momaday uses many other metaphors in the story to help push details and give them more edge in how they are presented.
Momaday uses many ironic devices to help stress the big points he is making. An example of a euphemism would be: “But, beautiful as it is, one might have the sense of confinement there.” (7) In this quote, Momaday is talking about Yellowstone, and how it is very beautiful. The word “confinement” is a much nicer way of saying “imprisoned”. He is basically covering up, and sugar-coating the fact that some people feel trapped within Yellowstone. By using a euphemism to describe it, he is able to not only describe it better, but he is able to make emphasis that even though it is not being said, it is actually happening. Another example of a euphemism would be: “Bad women are thrown away.” (58) This quote is a much nicer way of saying that they are either going to kill the women or throw them out of the tribe and leave them to starve and fend on their own. This euphemism is used to give the readers an idea of what they would be going to do to the women, but not exactly say what they are going to do straight out and bluntly. Momaday also uses situational irony to help move along the novel and add more to the overall tone. An example of situational irony would be: “Once there was a man who owned a fine hunting horse. It was black and fast and afraid of nothing. When it was turned upon an enemy it charged in a straight line and struck at full speed; the man need have no hand upon the rein. But, you know, that man knew fear. Once during a charge he turned that animal from its course. That was a bad thing. The hunting horse died of shame.” (70) Within this excerpt, the horse seemed to be one of the top horses out there, and then in the end, he ended up not really dying completely, but because his owner did a bad move. The ending seemed so unexpected. These sort of ironic devices seem to be used in order to add suspense to the novel. The situational irony is used but not as often as euphemisms and other ironic devices. Ironic devices give the novel its edge and make it more interesting.
Although there are many different characters within the novel, the most important of all the characters seemed to be Momaday’s grandmother, Aho. The tone and sense he has towards her seems to be admiration. This is plausible because when he says, “She could tell of the Crows, whom she had never seen, and of the Black Hills, where she had never been,” (7) it shows that he has some sort of amazement by her. It seems that he is very shocked by the fact that she could do that without any prior knowledge to it. It is as if he wonders how she does it. It is also clear that he has admiration for his grandmother when he says, “I wanted to see in reality what she had seen more perfectly in the mind’s eye.” (7) By saying that she sees “perfectly in the mind’s eye”, he is suggesting that it seems as if she can see everything clearly and know exactly about all the things that which surrounds her. Generally, when people are around someone that knows almost everything about anything, we are perplexed at how they have so much knowledge. This is the same basic principle with how Momaday felt about his grandmother.
The overall tone of the entire novel seemed to be suspense and relief. It seemed that there would always be a certain, tense event within the tales, and then after the occurrence, something happens to make everything better; hence the suspense and relief. For example: when the two boys were caught in the fire within the cave caused by the giant. The boys simply had to say “thain-mom” or ‘above my eyes’ and they were unharmed. The small tales that Momaday put into his novel seemed to follow the same structure, making the overall tone of the entire novel being suspense and relief.
In Momaday’s novel The Way to Rainy Mountain, it seemed that his main influence was his wise grandmother. Without his grandmother, this book would not have been as cultural and influential as it was. The overall theme of the entire book seemed to be “Make wise decisions and think before you act to prevent anything from going wrong.” Any prominent secondary themes would be something similar to the main theme such as “learn from your experiences” or “Do what you think is right”. It seemed that the main overall theme was basically about choice and decision making.
Although the book had to do a great deal with culture, it seemed to point more towards using your wit and making right decisions because of the influence the grandmother had on Momaday. Aho was very wise and according to Momaday, it was as if she knew practically everything. The grandmother was the main motif within the novel. It did not seem like there were any other motifs aside from her.
The author’s intention could be telling his audience that we all should learn from out experiences, and no matter what situation we are in, we can find a way out of it; all w
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