House Made of Dawn

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Even though the novel House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday is a fictional story, it also can serve as a sort of ethnography for modern Native Americans. Momaday writes the book in a form that makes more sense when read out loud. This mirrors the value that Native Americans place on oral tradition. The various priests in the story also tell several stories from Native American tradition and they are passed along in this way in the book. Native Americans place great value in stories and this is shown in the book.

The novel also shows how the priests are important in Native American culture. The two priests, one in Walatowa and one in Los Angeles, are central figures in their respective towns.
Also shown in the book is the importance of tradition. The Eagle Watcher society is one example of a tradition that Abel remembers having participated in when he was young. There are also feasts and ceremonies held. The running in the book also symbolizes tradition that is handed down from generation to generation. Francisco remembers running in the race when he was young and Abel runs at the end of the book.

The main character Abel functions as an important symbol of Native Americans. It starts by showing the world Abel was born into. He is born into “the house made of dawn, made of pollen and rain.” This implies a freedom in the Native American world and close ties to the natural world. We know Abel has changed when he comes back on the bus. Francisco goes to meet him and it describes the foreign mechanical sounds of the bus as compared to the sounds of the natural environment. This tells us he is coming from a different world so to speak.

After Abel kills the albino and leaves prison, it shows his real entrance in the modern world of Los Angeles. He starts out as a hard worker but the pace of life is so different in Los Angeles. Here he works twelve hours a day to get by whereas at his home in Walatowa, the pace of life was much more leisurely....
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