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Free Study Guide for House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday-Summary
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 6: August 1

Summary

After three days Father Olguin has settled back into his routine. He feels content with his life. It has taken him years to relax into the rhythm of life in the town. He feels that his pulse conforms to that rhythm. On the first of August, the people in town begin to stir in the excitement of the harvest feast. People come to town from the countryside. The first covered wagons are driven by the older generation of the Dine people. The end of the wagon train is driven by the degenerate people. All of them are coming to "prolong for another year the agony of recognition and retreat."

After taking honey from his bee hives, Father Olguin drives out to see Angela St. John. He thinks about her reserve with him and feels that she has set the tone of the relationship. When he gets to her house, she lets him in and he begins to talk without stop. He decides to approach her officiously, with the "jealousy of Aesop and the ring of Genesis." She can scarcely pay attention to him because she can hear the sound of thunder. She has been craving rain. As soon as he stops talking, she says, "ĎOh my God, I am heartily sorry . . . for having offended Theeí" and she laughs. He is horrified and leaves.

When he returns to town, the streets are full of people. He drives through the streets and comes to a short stop in front of a wagon full of people. The children call out to him "Padre! Padre! Padre!"

Thunder sounds in the mountains and lightning flashes. It begins to rain. In the Benevides house, Angela listens to the first rain drops. She goes to the door and opens it onto the downpour.


In town, the feasting has begun. Francisco walks into town wearing his leggings and white ceremonial trousers. He feels his age so strongly that he can hardly remember his bodily complaints. He feels a vague sense of grief, but canít think of what he is grieving for. He walks to the Middle where he sees the fires of the feast burning. He can hear people speaking the old languages of Tanoan and Athapascan along with broken English and Spanish. He smells the traditional foods cooking and savors the smell of his favorite dishes. He loves the rain. He loves being among the celebrants. He enjoys the beauty of the people in all their finery. He gets to the Middle and the holy place. He sees that the shrine of Porcingula, Our Lady of the Angels, has been raised. He bows before it. He thinks forward to tomorrow when heíll supervise the decoration of the image in his role as sacristan. The Lady will be carried in a procession from the church after mass and the little horse would come and greet her in the aisle and then dance beside her in the streets. The bull would also lope around during the procession and black-faced children, who represent the invaders, and the clowns, would follow also. The Lady would stand all day in her shrine and the governor and the officials would sit at her feet. The dancers of the squash and turquoise clans would appear on top of the kiva and descend to earth and kneel before her.

Francisco climbs the ladder to get to the kiva. He has some trouble but goes slowly. When he comes back out of the kiva at dusk, he comes with the other holy men. The earth of the Middle shines with the new rain. He goes with the others to the house where the little horse will emerge. It comes out and begins to dance. The drummer beats perfect time. The horse is like a black Arabian of the Moors. The dancer gives it life. The medicine men pray over the horse with plumes and pollen and meal. Then the bull comes running followed closely by the black-faced clowns. The bull is a sad sight, "a crude and makeshift totem of revelry and delight." It is a kind of victim, an object of ridicule. Francisco thinks back on Mariano and running. He remembers when he was once or twice in his life the bull. The horse moves among the elders to be anointed and then the chief (the cacique) speaks to it and sprinkles meal on it.

The rain slows down and most of the wagons have left. Some people are left in town at Pacoís, a bar, where they have been drinking heavily. Abel is sitting at a table speaking to the white man. The Navajos become aware of the albino. Abel smiles throughout the talk. It is "thin and instinctive, a hard, transparent mask upon his mouth and eyes." When the two men are ready, they get out and go outside on the road. They are near the telegraph pole. The white man raises his arms to come for Abel and Abel gets his knife out and stabs the man in the chest. The white man has no expression on his face. He gets hold of Abel and draws him close. Abel is sick with terror and revulsion so he begins to stab the man more to get away from him. The man continues to hold onto him, so Abel stabs at the manís arms. Finally, he is released and he watches as the man continues to stand for a long time before he falls. Abel kneels beside the man and watches his face. He removes the black glasses from the manís eyes. He kneels over the man for a long time after the man has died.

Notes

The end of this section in which Abel kills the Albino who rode the black horse in the feast of Santiago is quite unexpected. Momaday writes it with a studious avoidance of providing motives or even the thoughts of Abel. It is described in the same tone as the feast is described, almost ritualistically, as if Abel and the white man are enacting another part of the rituals of harvest and feasting. It seems as though it is inexplicable in rational terms.

CHAPTER 7: August 2

Summary

To the sound of the censer and the drum, the procession comes out of the church. The statue is carried and the horse dances around it. The bull runs and turns. After a while, the dances file out of the kiva in two lines of dancing. They carry gourds and evergreen boughs. The singers sing in a single voice.

Out in the field, Francisco says "Abelito" over and over again to himself. He is out among his corn crop. He sees the reed which marks his trap and sees that the noose is empty. Francisco tries not to think of the dancers, but he knows so well their ritual dance that he canít stop his mind from envisioning their every movement. It is the first time in his life that he has missed the ceremony. He calls out "Abelito" again and begins to hoe his rows. He knows he is alone again.

Notes

This section provides the only immediate consequence of Abelís murder of the Albino in the previous section. Francisco has never missed the dance until this day. He calls out the child-like version of his grandson Abelís name over and over as he thinks of the dance. What happened to Abel is left for the reader to conjecture. It seems as though Francisco has had to pay the price of ostracism whether he is imposing it on himself or the community imposed it on him.

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