Scott Momaday Essay

2624 words - 10 pages

Scott Momaday is an author that uses his roots to weave enchanting stories that reach into the heart of things that we ordinarily overlook. He uses nature as an instrument, to illustrate the beauty in the simple, nearly forgotten knowledge of the Native American people. His stories are rich with meaning, but in a subtle way that only really makes sense once you have experienced the same type of search for self. They are steeped in the oral traditions of his ancestors to make supremely compelling stories with layers upon layers of culture and knowledge that are easily relatable and understandable.
Momaday was born on February 27, 1934, at the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma, to Alfred Momaday, a Kiowa painter, and Natachee Scott, a part-Cherokee woman. From his birth, Momaday lived and played with various Indian tribes across Arizona, not only to the Kiowa traditions of his father's family but to the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo Indian cultures of the Southwest, an invaluable experience that would color his philosophy and writing indelibly. Momaday himself has said "I am an Indian and I believe I'm fortunate to have the heritage I have," and "I grew up in two worlds and straddle both those worlds even now, it has made for confusion and a richness in my life. I've been able to deal with it reasonably well, I think, and I value it."
House Made of Dawn was published in 1968, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969. Its success and acclaim sparked what scholars call the Native American Renaissance, paving the way for other Native American writers to publish works which deal with Native life in the United States.
House Made of Dawn takes its title from a translation of a Navajo song which is part of an extensive religious ceremony. The song alludes to it as the home of the semi-divine personification of the dawn, “Male deity! Your offering I make. I have prepared a smoke for you. Restore my feet for me, Restore my legs for me, Restore my body for me, Restore my mind for me…” Throughout the novel, important events and insights occur at dawn or sunrise. The setting for House Made of Dawn is a Native American reservation in New Mexico called Walatowa, and then later, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. The story begins in 1945 and ends in 1952. The setting is important for its indigenous Native American cultures and history, while the time is important for its notably changed post-WWII way of life. The protagonist, Abel, struggles to balance the traditional Navajo way of life and the more destructive, urban world of postwar America. This is one of the major conflicts in the novel.
Abel, the protagonist of the novel, lives on a reservation in New Mexico with his grandfather, his mother and older brother having died, until he goes to war. He comes home and commits murder. He is put into jail for six years and is relocated to Los Angeles, California where he works in a factory for a short time and then is...

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