The Journey to Self Discovery
Death and life are contrasting points of view while discovery seems to be the main point in Joan Didion’s essay “On Going Home and, N. Scott Momaday’s essay The Way to Rainy Mountain. For Joan Didion, returning home is a source of comfort, confusion, and conflict. The life she lives with her husband and child are a world apart from the life she grew up in. Her memories are a part of who she is and the kind of mother and wife she hopes to be. Perhaps in her quest, she will find the best parts of her to pour into her new life. In contrast, N. Scott Momaday’s “home” is his grandmother. She encompasses all that he came to know and love. The Kiowa traditions were brought to life in her home through her beadwork, cooking, storytelling, and prayers. Her death is a turning point in his life which sends him on an adventure to discover his Kiowa roots.
Joan Didion’s goal in going home was to share her daughter’s first birthday with her family and hopefully give her a sense of home. At least a sense for the “normal, happy” home she grew up in. Didion’s family hasn’t changed in all the years she’s been gone. The dust hasn’t moved, the conversation hasn’t changed, and their reaction to her husband hasn’t changed. Her brother calls him “Joan’s Husband” and she refers to her marriage as the “classic betrayal.” By bringing an outsider into the family she risks the relationships and family dynamic she has with her mother, father, and brother. She has brought an outsider into the family environment. He is hardly noticed when she brings him over. He writes DUST (1419) in the dust on surfaces in the house which goes unnoticed. Joan Didion faces her childhood memories head on while she empties a drawer full of the past onto a bed reflecting on a rejection letter from The Nation, a photograph of the shopping center her father was going to buy and never did, and a picture of her grandfather. She looks for her face in his picture and doesn’t find it. The items that used to define who she was at seventeen no longer seem to hold their place. She enjoys a cup of coffee with her mother whom she gets along with (1420) and relates to on an adult level realizing that they are both “veterans of a guerrilla war we never understood.”
Suffering the loss of his grandmother in the spring, Momaday returns to Rainy Mountain in July on a journey to discover his Kiowa roots. He was told that her face was like a child when she passed and from this point he likes thinking of her as a child. He learns that when his grandmother was born her generation was the last to experience the freedom to worship and live as the Kiowa people had been accustomed. The Kiowa people were not warriors by choice in the sense of fighting to win land or plunder. They were driven by and instinct to survive and because they were not fighters they didn’t understand why the Cavalry was so merciless in their advancement on the tribe. They were eventually...