House Made of Dawnby N. Scott Momaday
House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969, tells the story of a young American Indian named Abel, home from a foreign war and caught between two worlds: one his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons and the harsh beauty of the land; the other of industrial America, a goading him into a compulsive cycle of dissipation and/i>
House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969, tells the story of a young American Indian named Abel, home from a foreign war and caught between two worlds: one his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons and the harsh beauty of the land; the other of industrial America, a goading him into a compulsive cycle of dissipation and disgust.
N. Scott Momaday is a novelist, a poet, and a painter. Among the awards he has received for writing are the Pulitzer Prize and the Premio Letterario Internazionale "Mondello." He is Regent's Professor of English at the University of Arizona, and he lives in Tucson with his wife and daughter.
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Walatowa, Canon de San Diego, 1945
The river lies in a valley of hills and fields. The north end of the valley is narrow, and the river runs down from the mountains through a canyon. The sun strikes the canyon floor only a few hours each day, and in winter the snow remains for a long time in the crevices of the walls. There is a town in the valley, and there are ruins of other towns in the canyon. In three directions from the town there are cultivated fields. Most of them lie to the west, across the river, on the slope of the plain. Now and then in winter, great angles of geese fly through the valley, and then the sky and the geese are the same color and the air is hard and damp and smoke rises from the houses of the town. The seasons lie hard upon the land. In summer the valley is hot, and birds come to the tamarack on the river. The feathers of blue and yellow birds are prized by the townsmen.
The fields are small and irregular, and from the west mesa they seem an intricate patchwork of arbors and gardens, too numerous for the town. The townsmen work all summer in the fields. When the moon is full, they work at night with ancient, handmade plows and hoes, and if the weather is good and the water plentiful they take a good harvest from the fields. They grow the things that can be preserved easily: corn and chilies and alfalfa. On the town side of the river there are a few orchards and patches of melons and grapes and squash. Every six or seven years there is a great harvest of pinones far to the east of the town. Thatharvest, like the deer in themountains, is the gift of God.
It is hot in the end of July. The old man Francisco drove a team of roan mares near the place where the river bends around a cottonwood. The sun shone on the sand and the river and the leaves of the tree, and waves of heat shimmered from the stones. The colored stones on the bank of the river were small and smooth, and they rubbed together and cracked under the wagon wheels. Once in a while one of the roan mares tossed its head, and the commotion of its dark mane sent a swarm of flies into the air. Downstream the brush grew thick on a bar in the river, and there the old man saw the reed. He turned the mares into the water and stepped down on the sand. A sparrow hung from the reed. It was upside down and its wings were partly open and the feathers at the back of its head lay spread in a tiny ruff. The eyes were neither open nor closed. Francisco was disappointed, for he had wished for a male mountain bluebird, breast feathers the pale color of April skies or of turquoise, lake water. Or a summer tanager: a prayer plume ought to be beautiful. He drew the reed from the sand and cut loose the horsehair from the sparrow's feet. The bird fell into the water and was carried away in the current. He turned the reed in his hands; it was smooth and nearly translucent, like the spine of an eagle feather, and it was not yet burned and made brittle by the sun and wind. He had cut the hair too short, and he pulled another from the tail of the near roan and set the snare again. When the reed was curved and strung like a bow, he replaced it carefully in the sand. He laid his forefinger lightly on top of the reed and the reed sprang and the looped end of the hair snapped across his finger and made a white line above the nail. "Si, bien hecho," he said aloud, and without removing the reed from the sand he cocked it again.
The sun rose higher and the old man urged the mares awayfrom the river. Then he was on the old road to San Ysidro. Attimes he sang and talked to himself above the noise of thewagon: "Yo heyana oh . . . heyana oh . . . heyana oh . . .Abelito . . . tarda mucho en venir. . . ." The mares pulledeasily, with their heads low. He held a vague tension on thelines and settled into the ride by force of habit. A lizard ranacross the road in front of the mares and crouched on a largeflat rock, its tail curved over the edge. Far away a whirlwindmoved toward the river, but it soon spun itself out and theair was again perfectly still.
He was alone on the wagon road. The pavement lay on a higher parallel at the base of the hills to the east. The trucks of the town-and those of the lumber camps at Paliza and Vallecitos-made an endless parade on the highway, but the wagon road was used now only by the herdsmen and planters whose fields lay to the south and west. When he came to the place called Seytokwa, Francisco remembered the race for good hunting and harvests. Once he had played a part; he had rubbed himself with soot, and he ran on the wagon road at dawn. He ran so hard that he could feel the sweat fly from his head and arms' though it was winter and the air was filled with snow. He ran until his breath burned in his throat and his feet rose and fell in a strange repetition that seemed apart from all his effort. At last he had overtaken Mariano, who was everywhere supposed to be the best of the long-race runners...
Meet the Author
Robert DiYanni is Professor of English at Pace University, Pleasantville, New York, where he teaches courses in literature, writing, and humanities. He has also taught at Queens College of the City University of New York, at New York University in the Graduate Rhetoric Program, and most recently in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard University. He received his B.A. from Rutgers University (1968) and his Ph.D. from the City University of New York (1976).
Robert DiYanni has written articles and reviews on various aspects of literature, composition, and pedagogy. His books include Literature: Reading, Fiction, Poetry, Drama and the Essay; The McGraw-Hill Book of Poetry; Women’s Voices; Like Season’d Timber: New Essays on George Herbert; and Modern American Poets: Their Voices and Visions (a text to accompany the Annenberg-funded telecourse, Voices and Visions). With Kraft Rompf, he edited The McGraw-Hill Book of Poetry, (1993) and The McGraw-Hill Book of Fiction (1995). With Pat Hoy, he edited Encounters: Readings for Inquiry and Argument (1997).
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