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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris-Free Study Guide-MonkeyNotes
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Chapter 20

Ida describes Lee and Christine’s childhood. The two were inseparable with Christine acting like a little mother and competing with Ida to do the smallest thing for him. Two children could not have been more different. Christine took crazy chances and dares while Lee looked out for her and shyly reported her escapades to Ida who made no effort to stop her. After Christine’s frightening experience on the natural bridge, the tables turn. Lee becomes the one who takes risks while Christine becomes withdrawn and devotes herself to the Catholic faith.

Christine’s obsession with religion becomes extreme; although Father Hurlburt will never says just what she tells him in confession, he decides at one point that Christine’s behavior must be related to a mysterious letter that Sister Alvina has told her about. The Blessed Virgin was supposed to have given this letter to a Portuguese girl named Lucy. The letter would be opened on New Year’s and would predict the future of the world-either the conversion of Russia or the end of the world. Believers were supposed to prepare for either event by waiting until midnight out on the roof. Before the time comes, however, Christine gives Ida a permanent as if in preparation for something. Lee mocks her, and Christine eventually gives in, acknowledging that nothing is going to happen. Both kids are asleep when Father Hurlburt comes to visit Ida and finds her braiding her hair. Ida’s story thus ends at the same place Rayona’s had ended and Christine’s had begun.

Notes

The braiding of the hair is symbolic of a realization that comes to both Ida and Christine and later to Rayona. Part of the wall between the women was related to each character’s determination to be "beholding" to no one. Each character wants to be loved and valued in the eyes of the others, yet each wants to remain autonomous. Part of healing and part of love involves allowing another person to help whether the help is needed or not. A significant problem for all three women is that it is easier to give than to receive. But in spite of their resistance their lives are intertwined. Ida is the root, and when she acknowledges her position to Rayona, the healing will begin for herself as well.

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