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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris-Free Study Guide-MonkeyNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 18

The nuns in Denver treat Clara like a martyr, especially after Clara tells stories of being "attacked." At first they treat Ida like a servant, loading work on her; eventually they ignore her.

The baby is born on August 10 th . On the 11 th , Ida finds out that Clara has decided to give the baby up for adoption and has even let the nuns give her the name "Christine." Ida argues with her about it, threatening to reveal the truth of the baby’s conception. Ida wins and returns to the reservation with the baby-without Clara who is supposedly still convalescing. But Clara does not return to the reservation until Christine is nearly 4 years old. In the meantime, Ida insists that Christine call her "aunt" even though she claims to be Christine’s mother. In this way, her attachment for Christine is "chipped away" which Ida says is what she intended. It was her way of protecting herself against the day when Clara would return and take Christine away.

The one regular visitor that Ida has is Father Hurlburt who comes week after week in spite of Ida’s coldness and her determination not to need his company. His friendship, however, proves worth having when Clara finally returns nearly four years later. She does not renew her relationship with Lecon and her amusing stories only bore Anne. But her real purpose is to take Christine, to sell the child to a "very well to do family." Thinking quickly, Ida makes Clara promise to let her be the one to tell Christine.



The day before Clara’s planned departure, Father Hurlburt shows up with a prepared document that declares Ida as Christine’s mother. Father Hurlburt threatens to tell the truth to the nuns, and Ida vows she will tell the truth to everyone Clara knows. Clara is thus forced to leave without Christine.

Notes

The nuns in Denver are a type of Catholic missionary attitudes throughout the country. They take in Clara with more than enough sympathy. She is pretty with curly hair and an overall attitude that is more white than Indian. She also knows how to make herself seem like a victim. She fits their profile of the persecuted saint- except that she didn’t die. And her refusal to name the father of the baby allows them to blame all men equally and set Clara up as an icon of their pity and generosity.

Ida, on the other hand, is seen as an extra. Since she isn’t a victim, she is expected to work for her keep. Her uncooperative attitude regarding religious ritual allows them to fit their Indian stereotype to her. She acts exactly as they imagine an Indian would act. Their hypocrisy is nauseating.

In spite of winning the battle to keep Christine, Ida expects additional trouble from Clara. Apparently, Clara’s behavior at the convent and her lack of motherly concern for the baby has revealed her true character to Ida. She knows Clara better than Clara thinks she does and is neither surprised nor willing to surrender when Clara shows up on her door.

We also get some characterization of Father Hurlburt here. He visits Christine faithfully but without pressuring her. It’s almost as though he feels a portion of guilt in allowing her to take responsibility for Clara’s baby. At any rate, he is one of the few of the mission whose friendship and care for the Indians is not motivated by self-interests. He establishes himself firmly in Ida’s camp by producing the document that declares Ida as the mother of Christine. He demonstrates a willingness and ability to use his considerable influence when it is needed or wanted, but stays in the background when he is not needed.

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