Different Eyes Yield Different Results
As is true in any facet of life, your experiences and the events that you have encountered throughout your time on this planet shape everything you know about things in the world. This remains true for the characters in N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn. The characters of Abel, Francisco, Benally, and Tosamah have all been through various different adventures during their lifetimes. Thanks to pre-existing biases, racism, and life changing events, Abel, Francisco, Ben, and Tosamah all have different conceptions of the world, especially in their attitudes toward Native Americans as well as the white society and these attitudes shape the identity of each individual character.
The character that shows the most outward signs of his differentiating views toward Native Americans and white society is Abel. One of the hardest things to go through in life and one of the most frequently used devices by authors to show devastation to characters in fiction is the loss of a loved one. Abel is one of those characters that has experienced the loss of his mother and brother and the way he viewed the world after their loss is very different in comparison to someone who has not experienced it. He was without that nurturing figure in his life that could be there at all time telling him that everything would be okay after a rough day and be there for him during the strict upbringing of Native American life. In the death of his older brother, Vidal, Abel lost someone he could look up to and someone who could begin to teach him the ways of Native American life and instill in him the traditions of their culture. The loss that Abel experiences leads to him being reckless in life and without any direction. Without this, he feels out of place and that lack of direction leads him to joining the Army.
Although we don’t hear much about his time in the Army, the one part we do learn about it is very important. We are told of a time in the war during a great massacre of troops where Abel is one of three men that are left after the fighting. This is another instance of loss in the life of Abel and another moment when he is left alone after being part of a large “family.” The continual loss can only lead to a sense of confusion and lack of knowingness in Abel’s life and this leads to his loss of traditional values in his society, a reckless and carefree behavior, and the root of Abel’s demise, his drinking problem.
Even with rough times in his life, tradition remains in a very small part of Abel in several ways. The story of Abel having his first sexual encounter with a women is something that is completely different than what we see in the world today. He does not even mention the woman’s name, he solely remembers the time he spends alone with her and the dance that the two of them share. The way he looks back on former life events and the way that he respects the girl due to them both having a mutual wanting for the first time they have sex shows the tradition that Abel once was able to carry. Another way that his tradition is shown is throughout the vision of the eagle and his hunt for it. We get a very spiritual image here and see Abel as back in his Native American ways during the time that he talks of this.
Tradition is there with Abel but he also seems to be prejudice against the Native Americans and almost has a sense that they have not given him anything worthwhile during his lifetime. His heavy drinking leaves him as though he is not even there around his people and leaving his grandfather after he cared for and worried about Abel is a strong sign of disrespect. He takes part in Native American ways while he is back, but it is limited to the use of peyote and their traditional gatherings where he ends up killing the albino.
Due to his surroundings by dominantly white European Americans during the war, Abel most likely felt a sense that he...