Literary Analysis Essay on House Made of Dawn by Navarre Scott Momaday

Published: 2021-06-23
1799 words
7 pages
15 min to read
Carnegie Mellon University
Type of paper: 
Book review
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Scott N. Momadays writing, House Made of Dawn, has four major parts which chapter subheadings are provided with dates. In keeping with the Native American sense of history, the text is not chronological, but rather it is episodic. Therefore, Scott evokes both a sense of concentration and timelessness on the core of each experiential piece, gradually forming a curing pattern for Abel, the protagonist, as he travels toward an inner congruence with the earth.

Text issues and events

Part 1: The Longhair dated 20th July 1945 and the place is Walatowa. The section describes the reunion of Abel and his grandfather, Francisco. Abel is a returning expert of World War II. Abel is drunk when he arrives by bus and is taken home. Different flashbacks from Abels childhood are both and fearful and pleasant. Memories of his mother, brother, and his membership in the Eagle Watchers Society come to him. His lack of attunement with nature is evidenced when, as a young child, he refuses to admit the moaning of the wind and returns instead with fear. The death of his brother Vidal is contrasted with Abels coming-of-age rites. As the text continues, Father Olguin, a priest and Mrs. Martin are introduced. Despite her pregnancy, Angela seduces Abel. (Momaday, 1999).

Father Olguin also develops an interest in Angela. He stops in her house the same day that Abel chopped wood for her, and invites her to the town's feast of Santiago. During a contest that renovates a historical event in the life of Santiago, Angela witnesses an albino, a vivid horseman ceremonially smear Abel with the blood of a rooster. As August begins, there are a large storm and a festival. During the ceremony, people run after a cow that runs through the streets. Abel grandfather is engaging in the feast with many of the other elders. That night, after drinking at the bar, Abel seemingly inexplicably kills the albino man with a knife. Abel is released from prison Seven years later, and he is under the care of an Indian Relocation program in Los Angeles. He starts working at a factory where he meets Ben who offers him accommodation.

Part 2: The Priest of the Sun, dated 1952 and set in Los Angeles. The narration in this chapter is based on Abel view. The leader of the Indian Group is Reverend John Big Bluff Tosamah, Priest of the Sun. He preaches a solemn sermon according to the gospel. Rev. John teases Abel by calling him a "Longhair." According to him, Abel cannot assimilate to the demands of the new modern world. Nevertheless, Abel successes to befriend a man named Ben Banally from a reservation in New Mexico. Abel develops a close relationship with Milly who is a social worker. His general situation does not improve, and Abel ends up drunk on the beach with his head, upper body and hands beaten and broken. Memories of the reservation, the war, jail, and Milly run through his mind. Eventually, Abel picks himself up, and he staggers across town to Bens apartment where he stays (Momaday, 1999).

Part 3: The Night Chanter dated 1952 and took place in Los Angeles. This section is the longest chapter of the book. Ben Banally is the first-person narrator who tells the story of Abel in internal monolog. Abel is put on a train by Ben after the two walked in the rain. Abel goes back to the reservation. Ben thinks and narrates what has happened to Abel in Los Angeles, and he wonders who will help him in the strain since he is in pain after the beating. Life in the city had been tough for Abel. The first instance was when Reverend Tosamah ridiculed him when they were playing a poker game with the Indian members. Second, Abel involves himself in a fight, but he is too drunk to fight back. Third, Abel stays drunk for the following two days and fails to go to work. Fourth, when he gets better and returns to work, the boss harasses him making Abel quit his job. The downward spiral continues, and Abel gets drunk each and every day from borrowing money from Milly, Ben, and laze around the apartment (Momaday, 1999). Ben gets fed with Abel's misconducts and throws him out of his apartment. Abel decides to revenge, and he approaches Martinez, a corrupt policeman.

The officer ends up robbing Ben one night and hits Abel across the knuckles with his stick. Abel does not stop to that he finds Martinez and again he is almost beaten to death. While Abel is being treated in the hospital, Ben calls Angela his former girlfriend who pays him several visits to revive his spirit, just years ago when Abel helped revive her spirit by reciting a story about a maiden a bear and which incidentally matches an old Navajo myth (Momaday, 2013).

Part 4: The Dawn Runner dated 1952 and took place in Walatowa. This is the shortest and the last chapter of the novel. Abel goes back to the reservation in New Mexico to look after his grandfather, who at the point of death. His grandfather narrates to him the stories from his youth and emphasizes the importance of remaining connected to his ancestors traditions. When Francisco dies on a chilly morning, Abel prepares his grandfather for burial and smears his body with ashes. As soon as dawn breaks, Abel begins to running and chanting. He is practicing a ritual his grandfather, Francisco taught him about the race of the dead. As Abel runs, starts singing for himself and Francisco. He is coming back to his people traditions and the place where he belongs in the world (Momaday, 2013).

Characters Abel: He is the novels protagonist, a young Native American man. Abel has grown up in Walatowa, New Mexico, under the care of his grandfather, Francisco. Abel is a war veteran. Abel is a drunkard. He does not talk unless necessary and is by nature slow to open up to others. He feels a strong connection to the earth and the landscape around him.

Francisco: He is Abels maternal grandfather. He was one of the great racers in Walatowa ceremonial races when he was younger but is now crippled by disease and a lifetime of hard work. He holds particular great dignity and is enthusiastic to the rich ceremonial customs of Wolatowa. His death in 1952 marks Abels reaffirmation of the traditional values of his native place (Momaday, 2013).

Father Olguin: He is a priest on a mission at Walatowa. The priest is swarthy and small. The priest is not portraying good morals to the people since she falls in love with Angela.

Angela: She is a pale, brunette white woman who has recently married and who arrives at the Benevides house at Walatowa for rest. She is impatient. She gets irritated by Abel's silence. She seduces Abel after noticing how his body looks.

Milly: The only child of a farmer and come to Los Angeles to seek for education. She has a plain face and blond hair. She likes laughing. Milly is now a social worker on Abel's case. Sensitive enough to notice that Abel hates the questions on her social-services surveys, she starts visiting Ben and Abel merely on a social level, which causes Abel to begin to appreciate her. Milly has a good heart since when she and Abel eventually become lovers, and she takes care of him when he loses his job and starts drinking heavily.


Ben Banally: He is the first-person narrator who tells the story of Abel in internal monolog. He narrates novel's third section, The Night Chanter is written primarily from Benally's point of view He is a Navajo who now lives in Los Angeles. He believes he is related to Abel somehow. He does his best to help Abel adjust to city life in Los Angeles. The tone of his language paints a picture of Ben as a pragmatic and practical man who is aware of his Indian heritage but aspires to many of the amenities of the modern American lifestyle (Momaday, 2013).


Native American Culture through the storytelling: Momaday learns stories at his childhood which is transmitted from one generation to another. In the context of the sacredness of just a few exact words, Abel's mysterious reserve and quietness make sense.

Personal and Historical Relationships with Nature: When Francisco heads to the sounds around and fields him, the only thing he hears are foreshadowed an event relating to Abel. As Abel comes into town Francisco he hears the little whine of the tires coming through the fields to the Wagon Road (Bennett, 2010).


Priests: The whole of the book Momaday makes a parallel between the locations of Walatowa and Los Angeles. One active parallel element such as the one between Angela and Milly is the doubling of the priests. Tosamah and Father Olguin, the Priest of the Sun, tell narrations of the past, act as instances to follow, and help those around them. They piece as the center of social action from which events in the novel spiral forth.

Flashbacks: In the text, flashbacks are triggered by a dwelling or an object in the landscape for instance, when Francisco passes the place called Seytokwa in the novel's first section, "The Longhair." Moving the location causes Francisco to remember the races held there when he was young. Another similar flashback occurs for Abel after he sees an eagle fly overhead and remembers the Eagle Watchers Society he became a part of when he was young (Bennett, 2010). These persistent flashbacks highlight the complicated connection between present and past, and stresses the handing down and repetition of traditions and from one generation to another.

Running: The process activity of running is a crucial role in the text. Both the first and last scenes of the book portray Abel running the race that Francisco remembers running when he was young. Abel is running during his grandfather burial to signify the tradition.


The Moon: The moon lends its light in a logical but enchanted way in the novel. It is a symbol of an unfortunate luck. The moonlight allows the entire community to work all night on the farm.

Rain: It is a symbol of a form of convergence that results in dramatic events. They include bad or good occurrences. It rains when it rains after Francisco dies, Abel and Angela first make love, and when Abel leaves Los Angeles to return to Walatowa (Bennett, 2010).

Eagle: The Eagle Abel watches the eagle disappear, he is filled with longing, as for him the eagle is symbolic of an unknown form of freedom.


Momaday, N. Scott (1999).House made of dawn. Harper Perennial.

Momaday, N. S. (2013). House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday (1968). Encyclopedia of the Environment in American Literature, 223.

Bennett, John Z. (2010) "Review of House Made of Dawn". Western American Literature.


Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the website, please click below to request its removal: