Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Momaday’s language is precise and well controlled, yet figuratively expansive and inventive. His mastery is evident throughout. For example, a simple oxymoron physically describes Grey as at once “soft and firm,” effectively combining a range of male-female sensual imagery. The use of chiasmus at the center of the story represents the story’s balance point and shows Set engaged in life and nearing oneness: “His life was in motion; in motion was his life.” The theme of life as motion in “She Is Beautiful in Her Whole Being” echoes a message in Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968), his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a young man attempting to find himself in, and join himself to, the living, moving world.

Set’s passage to oneness of being is also a literary allegory for life itself. Life cannot be complete—nor can it continue—either in isolation or without love. Love leads one out of isolation, out of the self alone, and into family and society, where love and life and beauty become, in an ideally complete world, one unified whole.

“She Is Beautiful in Her Whole Being” is a perfect love adventure, one culminating in a marriage of parts that are each complete but which together constitute an ideal whole. As the firestick is ceremonially consumed, so too are both Set and Grey joined as one. They become one whole, both beautiful in their whole being.

She Is Beautiful in Her Whole Being Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Barry, Nora. Review of Ancestral Voice: Conversations with N. Scott Momaday. MELUS 16 (December 22, 1989): 115-117.

Douglas, Christopher. “The Flawed Design: American Imperialism in N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 45 (Fall, 2003): 3-24.

Isernhagen, Hartwig. Momaday, Vizenor, Armstrong: Conversations on American Indian Writing. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

Owen, Louis. Other Destinies: Reading the American Indian Novel. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.

Roemer, Kenneth, ed. Approaches to Teaching Momaday’s “The Way to Rainy Mountain.” New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1988.

Scarberry-Garcia, Susan. Landmarks of Healing: A Study of “House Made of Dawn.” Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Scenters-Zapico, John. “Cross-Cultural Mediations: Language, Storytelling, History, and Self as Enthymematic Premises in the Novels of N. Scott Momaday.” The American Indian Quarterly 21 (June 22, 1997): 499.

Schubnell, Matthias. “Locke Setman, Emil Nolde, and the Search for Expression in N. Scott Momaday’s The Ancient Child.” The American Indian Quarterly 18 (September 22, 1994): 468-480.

Stevens, Jason W. “Bear, Outlaw, and Storyteller: American Frontier Mythology and Ethnic Subjectivity of N. Scott Momaday.” American Literature 73 (September, 2001): 599-631.