In "The Way to Rainy Mountain," what are your impressions of Momaday's grandmother, Aho?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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She strikes me above all as a remnant of another age. The way that the narrator presents his grandmother as the last remaining member of a tribe and culture that is now sadly all but extinct on this planet seems to associate her with a sense of timeless history that stretches back into a time before history itself began to be recorded. The narrator's grandmother herself witnessed the destruction of her tribe and its practices, and yet we are told that she did so "without bitterness." Even though she spent the majority of her days in one geographical location, still what the narrator remembers about her, and what the reader understands about her character, is how intrinsic the former practices of her tribe are to her person. Consider the following quote:

Although my grandmother lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continental interior lay like memory in her blood. She could tell of the Crows, whom she had never seen, and of the Black Hills, where she had never been.

This, then, is the overwhelming impression that we gain of Aho. Even though she is the last remaining remnant of a tribe whose cultural practises and customs were eradicated, she still bears the identity of that tribe in her blood.

teachsuccess's profile pic

teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Aho appears to have been an extremely open-minded individual. Momoday states that she became a Christian in her later years but that she never forgot her Kiowa heritage. He recalls her most often at prayer. Although he does not understand the Kiowa language Aho spoke, he knew that her prayers were full of anguish and great emotion. Aho's connection to God was legendary, and she unleashed all of her grief in earnest prayer: "She made long, rambling prayers out of suffering and hope, having seen many things."

During her life, Aho enjoyed social occasions, and her home was always the hub of activity during the summertime. Momaday remembers how old warlords, their wives, and their daughters frequented Aho's house for "prayer meetings" and "great nocturnal feasts." By all appearances, Aho was a warm and gracious hostess.

Aho also gives the impression of having been a woman who tolerated little of evil, of "ignorance and disorder." Momaday relates that his grandmother often said the word zei-dl-bei ("frightful") when she saw or heard something untoward. It was "the one word with which she confronted evil and the incomprehensible." Yet, when the destruction of her people occurred, Aho did not retaliate in bitterness. She found solace in prayer and chose to live out the rest of her life in dignity, the way her forebears would have done.

...I see my grandmother in the several postures that were peculiar to her: standing at the wood stove on a winter morning and turning meat in a great iron skillet; sitting at the south window, bent above her beadwork, and afterwards, when her vision failed, looking down for a long time into the fold of her hands; going out upon a cane, very slowly as she did when the weight of age came upon her; praying.

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