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House Made of Dawn by Scott Momaday - Book Report/Review Example

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Francisco instills in Abel a sense of native traditions and values, but the war and other events alienates Abel's connections to that world of spiritual and physical wholeness and connectedness to the land and its people, a world known as a "house made of dawn.
It is the urban world of post-war white America, with its material abundance and promises of plenty that draws Abel away from his people. Abel arrives home and secures a job through Father Olguin chopping wood for Angela St. John, a rich white woman who is visiting the area to bathe in the mineral waters. Angela seduces Abel to distract herself from her own unhappiness, but also because she senses an animal-like quality in Abel. She promises to help him leave the reservation to find better means of employment. Possibly as a result of this affair, Abel realizes that his return to the reservation has been unsuccessful. He no longer feels at home and he is confused. His turmoil becomes clearer when a local albino Indian named Juan Reyes, described as "the white man", beats him in a game of horsemanship. Deciding Juan is a witch, Abel stabs him to death outside of a bar. Abel is then found guilty of murder and sent to jail.
Father Olguin, the Catholic priest in the pueblo, tries to explain Abel's perception of his victim as an evil spirit, admitting that the motivation behind and execution of the killing must ultimately resist comprehension by anyone outside the Jemez world. The nature of Abel's act is such that it cannot be assessed in terms of American law. Abel states his own feelings on the issues with the conviction of someone who believes himself to be in accordance with the relevant law: He had killed a white man.

It was not a complicated thing, after all; it was very simple. It was the most natural thing in the world. Surely they could see that, these men who meant to dispose of him in words. They must know that he would kill the white man again, if he had the chance, that there would be no hesitation whatsoever. For he would know what the white man was, and he would kill him if he could. A man kills such an enemy if he can. The tragedy is that Abel's law and the law of his judges are incompatible, resting on different cultural assumptions, and that it is in accordance with his judges' law that he is sentenced and sent to prison.

Pueblo religion offers nonviolent ways of controlling supernatural powers. The ritualistic expression of human creativity through words in songs and prayers and through motion in dance and ceremonial races is the central instrument by which the Indian maintains a balance between himself and the universe. Abel's growing understanding of the cosmic order in terms of his tribal heritage leads him to the recognition that his estrangement from the center of Indian life has been the cause of his dilemma. This diagnosis of the source of his "disease" puts him on the road to recovery.

Abel's previous inability to make sense of his situation is indicated in a flashback to his departure from the village, which is the continuation of the corresponding passage in the opening chapter: "He tried to think where the trouble had begun, what the trouble was. There was trouble; he could admit that to himself, but he had no real insight into his own situation. Maybe, certainly, that was the trouble; but he had no way of knowing." Now in his hallucinatory state ...Show more


House of Dawn is a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; Authored by Scott Momaday the masterpiece has led to the breakthrough of Native American literature into the main stream. In June 1945, a young Tano Indian named Abel returns from World War II army service to his home village, Walatowa, in New Mexico's Canon de San Diego, only to discover that he has entered a hell between two cultures…
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House Made of Dawn by Scott Momaday
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