Rainy Mountains

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Published on September 26, 2008

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Imagined Blood Memory in The Way to Rainy Mountain : Imagined Blood Memory in The Way to Rainy Mountain Hsiao-wei Cheng 3rd April 2008 Thesis Statement : Thesis Statement “The whole of The Way to Rainy Mountain, for instance, can be read as an exercise in blood memory (Allen 101).” Outline : Outline 1. In all of Momaday's major works of fiction, poetry, autobiography, and commentary, blood memory redefines American Indian authenticity in terms of imaginative re-collecting and re-membering. (Allen 94) 2. Through an intertexual reading and textual analysis, I aim to trace how Momaday exercises the blood memory trope in The Way to Rainy Mountain. Source Materials for The Way to Rainy Mountain : Source Materials for The Way to Rainy Mountain The archetype: “The hand-made 1967 Journey of Tai-Me, dedicated ‘To the Old Woman KO-sahn,’ and an essay in The Reporter, 26 January 1967, ‘The Way to Rainy Mountain,’ first interested Gus Blaisdell in publishing a commercial edition of Momaday's Kiowa tales. KO-sahn seems to have evolved into Aho, generically ‘old woman,’ the earth muse (the grandmother whose name approximates ‘a-ho,’ Kiowa for "thanks"). (Lincoln 104).” “The sources of these materials include his father and other relatives mentioned in Momaday's memoir The Names and the Kiowa elders mentioned in his essay ‘The Man Made of word’ (Molesky-Poz 612).” “The Man Made of Words.” (1970) : “The Man Made of Words.” (1970) “An Indian is an idea a given man has of himself.” (emphasis mine) “…the way to Rainy Mountain is preeminently the history of an idea, man’s idea of himself, and it has old and essential being in language. (“Prologue” 4) "Carnegie, Oklahoma, 1919.“ From In the Presence of the Sun (1992) : "Carnegie, Oklahoma, 1919.“ From In the Presence of the Sun (1992) This afternoon is older than the giving of gifts and the rhythmic scraping of the red earth. My father's father's name is called, and the gift horse stutters out, whole, the whole horizon in its eyes. In the giveaway is beaded the blood memories of fathers and sons. Oh, there is nothing like this afternoon in all the miles and years around, and I am not here, but, grandfather, father, I am here. An Interview with N. Scott Momaday (1987) : An Interview with N. Scott Momaday (1987) Momaday: "I think each of us bears in his genes or in his blood or wherever a recollection of the past. Even the very distant past. I just think that's the way it is.” Woodard: "You have a primordial memory?" Momaday: "Oh, I think everyone does." "Yes. It's probably more pronounced in small, closely defined ethnic groups, but yes, I think I have it and I think you do." In other words, "primordial" or "genetic" memory is potentially accessible to all willing to imagine such an idea of themselves. (Allen 105) Headwaters : Headwaters the river/water imagery genealogy as a blood river To trace back to its headwaters is to go back to one’s origin. How the three voices exercise blood memory? : How the three voices exercise blood memory? To exemplify the timelessness characteristics of imagination (“preface” ix) “It is a whole journey, intricate with motion and meaning; and it is made with the whole memory, that experience of the mind which is legendary as well as historical, personal as well as cultural. And the journey is an evocation of three things in particular: a landscape that is incomparable, a time that is gone forever, and the human spirit, which endures. (“Prologue” 4) The storytelling voices in the first division begin by recounting parts of Kiowa origin narratives. The second, objective, voice usually parallels the chronological development of the first voice by offering facts, definitions, and descriptions derived from written sources, including the anthropological and historical works of James Mooney and Mildred P. Mayhall and oral accounts of notable tribal and family events. In the third voice, Momaday recounts personal memories that capture aspects of the other two voices that--through acts of memory, association, and imagination-- were meaningful to him. (Molesky-Poz 613) Part of the project of Rainy Mountain is for Momaday to recount the physical pilgrimage he made across the Kiowa's ancestral landscape and to couple his account of this journey with his knowledge of extant Kiowa oral narratives and the written historical and anthropological records of the Kiowa in order to develop in his own memory what the Kiowa oral tradition, still fully operative in his grandmother's lifetime, had developed as Aho's "memory in the blood. The Landscape that evoke Imagination : The Landscape that evoke Imagination “Loneliness is an aspect of the land. All things in the plain are isolated; there is no confusion of objects in the eye, but one hill or one tree or one man. To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Your imagination comes to life, and this, you think, is where Creation was begun.” (“Introduction” 5) Aho as the link of blood memory for Momaday to evoke the Kiowa Past : Aho as the link of blood memory for Momaday to evoke the Kiowa Past She had lived to be very old and at last infirm. Her only living daughter was with her when she died, and I was told that in death her face was that of a child. I like to think of her as a child. When she was born, the Kiowas were living the last great moment of their history. For more than a hundred years they had controlled the open range. (“Introduction” 5-6) The Setting Out and The Going On: three voices fixed : The Setting Out and The Going On: three voices fixed VII: other and self/blood memory imagination VIII: words has power to evoke imagination The Closing in (the three voices converge in time) : The Closing in (the three voices converge in time) “…the journey recalled is among other things the revelation of one way in which these traditions are conceived, developed, and interfused in the human mind.” (“Prologue” 4) XX : XX I think I know how much he loved that animal; I think I know what was going on in his mind: if you will give me my life and the lives of my family, I will give you the life of this black-eared horse. (71) XXI : XXI Mammedaty was the grandson of Guipahgo, and he was well-known on that account. As Mammedaty was on the way to Rainy Mountain, he heard someone whistled to him and he saw a head of a little boy nearby above the grass. But when he went near, he saw nothing. (72) Mammedaty saw four things that were truly remarkable. This head of the child was one, and the tracks of the water beast another. (73) Guipahgo_a Kiowa chief XXIII : XXIII Aho remembered something… Aho remembered this [tai-me bundle]… the line between ancestral and historical voice blurs XIV (the Ancestral voice in present tense) : XIV (the Ancestral voice in present tense) East of my grandmother’s house, south of the pecan grove, there is buried a woman in a beautiful dress. (82) “East of my grandmother’s house the sun rises out of the plain. Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.” (83) Epilogue: Meteor Rain in 1883 & Ko-sahn : Epilogue: Meteor Rain in 1883 & Ko-sahn “Yet it is within the reach of memory still, though tenuously now, and moreover it is even defined in a remarkable rich and living verbal tradition which demands to be preserved for its own sake.” (85-86) As in his introduction, in his epilogue to Rainy Mountain Momaday imagines Kiowa elders in order to project himself back through their life span-through their "blood-and beyond to even older Kiowa memories. (Allen 102) “it was—all of this and more—a quest, a going forth upon the way to Rainy Mountain. Probably Ko-sahn too is dead now. At times, in the quiet of evening, I think she must have wondered, dreaming, who she was. Was she become in her sleep that old purveyor of the sacred earth, perhaps, that ancient one who, old as she was, still had the feeling of play? And in her mind, at times, did she see the falling stars?”(88) Rainy Mountain Cemetery : Rainy Mountain Cemetery Most is your name the name of this dark stone. Deranged in death, the mind to be inheres Forever in the nominal unknown, The wake of nothing audible he hears Who listens here and now to hear your name. The early sun, red as a hunter’s moon, Runs in the plain. The mountain burns and shinies; And silence is the long approach of noon Upon the shadows that your name defines— And death this cold, black destiny of stone. (89) There, where it ought to be, at the end of a long and legendary way, was my grandmother’s grave. Here and there on the dark stones were ancestral names. Looking back onece, I saw the mountain and came away. (“Introduction”12) But then, one might contend, Aho speaks through the stony silence at the end of Rainy Mountain. She is her grandson's voice; he lives through her art. "Be careful of your pronouncements," old one-eyed KO-sahn stepped out of her written name to tell this "man made of words" as he completed the "way" to Rainy Mountain. "If I am not here in this room, grandson, then surely neither are you." (Lincoln 103-4) Question : Question “For Kiowas the beginning was a struggle for existence in the bleak northern mountains. It was there, they say, that they entered the world through a hollow log. The end, too, was a struggle, and it was lost.”(3)What is lost? References : References Allen, Chadwick. “Blood (and) Memory.” American Literature 71.1 (1999): 93-116. Lincoln, Kenneth. “Tai-Me to Rainy Mountain: The Makings of American Indian Literature.” American Indian Quarterly 10. 2. (1986):101-117. Molesky-Poz, Jean. “Reconstructing Personal and Cultural Identities.” American Quarterly 45.4(1993): 611-620.

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