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Book Review: House Made of Dawn: An Example of Scenic Storytelling

By Edited Aug 1, 2015 0 0

In writing

House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Mamaday does not take the usual approach to storytelling. The complicated story bounces in and out and around the world and life of Abel and is difficult to follow. Abel is the main character and Native American struggling with life after his return from serving in WWII. A key element to following the storyline is at first not so obvious. Mamaday dedicates much of his prose descriptions of the surrounding landscape. Momaday’s choice of vivid and vibrant wording makes the scenery come to life with texture and dimension. An observant reader will recognize early on that the scenery descriptions are providing much more than a background setting. The scenery is an essential part of the story, used to compliment the moods and feelings of the characters and even to foreshadow coming events. Following the scenic story helps the reader to understand Abel and his story.

In the chapter July 28 of House Made of Dawn, Mamaday spends several pages painting the backdrop using eloquent and poetic wording. The scene is of changing seasons to a dry hot summer. Mamaday goes on to depict changes to the landscape that are more permanent. There are no more wolves, fewer eagles and a sadly caged eagle. This scenic story closely parallels what is happening to Abel. “Abel walked into the canyon. His return to the town had been a failure…” (53). Abel feels that not being able to talk to his grandfather or pray, sing or speak in his native language are failures. Abel does not fit into his native ‘landscape’ because he has changed too much. Much like the loss of wolves and the eagle in a cage, Abel feels lost and trapped in his own homeland.

By bringing something that otherwise may seem mundane and ordinary such as the landscape to the forefront of a story, Mamaday gives the reader a glimpse into the ideas of and beliefs of the Native American culture. For example, a tree is not just something in the background. It is to be reflected upon and used as a reminder of all that went into the tree, the rain, soil, sun and the animals in or on the tree. This is how House Made of Dawn (P.S.)">House Made of Dawn takes the reader through the story of Abel finding his way as a Native American in the story. Through what typically would be just the background setting, the scenery is brought to the foreground and not to be dismissed when reading this story.



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