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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris-Free Study Guide-MonkeyNotes
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Chapter 19

Annie dies and Lecon runs off somewhere. Pauline marries Dale Cree, leaving the family property to Ida. Willard Pretty Dog, who has been in the military, comes home after stepping on a mine and being patched together in Italy. He is so badly injured and mutilated that he is embarrassed about his appearance and wonít allow any one to see him. Ida and Hurlburt arrange for him to bring Willard to her house on the way home from one of his many trips to the hospital.

Ida plans a fancy supper for Willard and makes her self as attractive as she can. At first Willard refuses to get out of Father Hurlburtís car, but when he does, Ida welcomes him as if he is as attractive as he ever was. She gives him supper and talks to him without treating him like an invalid or mutant, and he ends up staying with her.

When the time comes to take Willard to the hospital for a major plastic surgery operation, Ida discovers she is pregnant. She does not tell him, planning to save the news for after his operation. The operation is a success, bringing Willard so close to his former appearance that he will no longer feel the need to hide his face. Mrs. Pretty Dog assumes that he will return home now that he no longer needs a nurse. Willard tells her that Ida is more than his nurse, that she was there for him when no one else wanted him, but as he talks, Ida realizes that he intends to stay with her and marry her out of gratitude and obligation for her kindness, not because he loves her. She rejects that type of marriage, telling him to go home with his mother. She never tells him that she is carrying his child.

Willardís baby is "a picture," a "beauty without a mar." Ida names him after her father Lecon, but says he will be called "Lee" to be different.

Notes

When Ida says she should have said no to Willard, we have to wonder when she ever said yes to him. She was the one who reached out to him and took him in; she was the one who showed him that he was still capable of a relationship, scarred though he was. And when he would have married her out of gratitude and a sense of obligation, she did say no to him even though that meant rearing another illegitimate child. Lee in his perfection and his weakness becomes a symbol of her unrealized dreams. She is suggesting that she should have shielded her heart against everyone, but at the same time acknowledges that when she did try to withhold her love, she was hurt as much as if she hadnít.

The quickness with which Ida recognizes that Willard intends to marry her out of obligation and gratitude rather than love, and her ability to refuse is spite of her love for him is a striking indication of the depth of her character as is the fact that she never told Lee who is father was. In fact, her insistence that both children call her "Aunt Ida" goes a long way in implying that both Christine and Lee had the same father; her explanation that she wanted them to call her aunt because they were born out of wedlock demonstrates her strength and determination to take whatever life hands her without asking for favors from anyone.

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