What does the idea of housing in N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain symbolise?

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

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A great section to analyse in response to this question would be when the narrator reaches his grandmother's house towards the end of his epic trek and comments lyrically on the importance of houses to him and to his people. Let us examine what he says, paying particular attention to how he links in houses with the plains that have been the home of his people in the past:

Houses are like sentinels in the plain, old keepers of the weather watch. There, in a very little while, wood takes on the appearance of great age. All colours wear soon away in the wind and rain, and then the wood is burned gray and the grain appears and the nails turn red with rust. The windowpanes are black and opaque; you imagine there is nothing within, and indeed there are many ghosts, bones given up to the land. They stand here and there against the sky, and you approach them for a longer time than you expect. They belong in the distance; it is their domain.

What is interesting about this description is the way in which the houses on the plain and the langauge that describes the plain itself are similar. Both comment on distance and isolation, the past, and the importance on living in harmony with nature. Note the way that the houses themselves quickly take on the appearance of their surroundings and seem to "blend in" to the plains. They are filled with "ghosts" and objects of history. In a text that is a pageant to his cultural past, the author seems to make the houses in this passage symbols of cultural relics that are similar to the values of his people.

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