The first chapter of the first division of the book is The Setting Out, which introduces the readers into the arousal of the Kiowa tribe. Its main meaning is to allow the reader to meet the story, the Kiowa culture, and to describe the process of the Kiowa’s creation. The main element, which is presented in each of the three sections of the chapters is the dog.
The main storyline opens with a myth of the Kiowa birth. The meaning of this section is to introduce any reader to the Indian American culture, showing the elements of Kiowa traditions and beliefs. Momaday retells a myth that Kiowa tribe was created out of the hollow log, Then, the story of their migration leads on, and it ends with the concern of the fading culture. From personal perspective, the author explains that the myth describes not only historical events, but also the Kiowa point of view on themselves (52). The faded culture is grey, because it exists in the oral memories, legends, and myths. Therefore, it is essential to retell all legends that have lived until the contemporary time.
As discussed, the key part of the section is showing a culture of the tribe. Similar to other nationalities, Kiowa have had their own saint animal. For example, in Judaism a cow is the most sacred creature of nature. The Kiowa tradition is not coming from the Bible or religion. The author tells an old legend “from the times when dogs could talk” (26). Introduced into the legend, the reader understand that the gods became sacred out of the traditions and beliefs. At the end of the section, Momaday mentions the dogs from his grandmother’s house.
Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain is an autobiography book, which he wrote using his own memories, the legends he had heard from his father, and the historical events. The book retells 300 years of history, portraying Kiowa myths, traditions, and the history of the invasion of white settlers on the tribal lands (Raj and Karunaker 371). The book recalls the events of the 18th century, when the Kiowa migration took place. The land was destructed by the wind, and the tribe had to move from their reservation. The combat arts were seen as a subject of pride, while buffalo hunting was heroic and a subject of courage (Raj and Karunaker 373). However, exactly hunting was the turning point in the nomadic tribe — buffalo have died out in the surrounding land, as without any food and animals to hunt, the reservation needed to migrate.
The supreme definition of the literary element used in The Way to Rainy Mountain is the three voices: personal, tribal, and historical. The personal one can be seen as a transforming entry into the story with the usage of individual experience (Erben et al. 1). The tribal, or mythic, voice expresses the legends of the Kiowa, making a transition from the alluring past to the harsh present. However, when Momaday is using first-person perspective, he is careful of bringing his own models of storytelling in relation to the oral tradition within his family (Sarkowsky 104). History flashbacks give the readers in-depth description of the events, and allow them to compare the myths to the strict history.
The style of The Way to Rainy Mountain is different to any others, beginning with the uncommon chapter division. This stylistic helps the reader to understand the timespan throughout the story. Despite the fact that there is an often change in the respective, the story holds a reader and does not allow to slip. The book begins with the creation of all time when the Kiowa are born from the hollow log (Erben et al. 1). The author uses the birth of the tribe to emphasize the importance of the story. The novel moves from the past in legends to the documentary past, into the Momaday present (Erben et al. 1). As discussed before, it does not confuse but rather helps the reader to engage with the book.
Erben, David, et al. “Image and Textual Design Strategies in Native American Literature”. SHS Web of Conferences, 2019, pp. 1-5.
Raj, K. and A. Karunaker. “Nativity and Tradition: A Study of N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain”. Indian Journal of English Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, 2018, pp. 368-76.
Momaday, Scott. The Way to Rainy Mountain. University of New Mexico Press, 1969.
Sarkowsky, Katja. “Cartographies of the Self: Indigenous Territoriality and Literary Sovereignty in Contemporary Native American Life Writing”. Journal of Transnational American Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, 2020, pp. 105-17, DOI: 10.5070/T8111046994