Critics claim that Momaday treats his grandmother’s memory with tenderness and reverence. Can you cite specific examples of this attitude?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Momaday's memory of his grandmother is his link to his Kiowa culture; through her, he acquires the history of his people and the legends that have lasted over the centuries. Momaday writes reverently that his grandmother belonged to the last culture that had evolved in North America and it is through her that he acquired the knowledge of his ancestors: "Her forebears came down from the high country in Western Montana nearly three centuries ago."

Here are three examples of the reverence and tenderness with which Momaday held his grandmother's memory:

  • From his grandmother the journey of the Indians was recalled and the author learned how the traditions of the Kiowas originated and developed and became part of the memory of the people. This migration, his grandmother told him, was made "in terms of wonder and delight." Furthermore, she told her grandson of the tradition of the Sun Dance,

"There were many people, and oh, it was beautiful. That was the beginning of the Sun Dance. It was all for Tai-me, you know, and it was a long time ago." 

  • When the author journeyed to Rainy Mountain to visit Aho's grave, he paid his respects to his grandmother and felt a connection there with his identity as a Kiowa:

. . . I awoke at dawn and went out on the dirt road to Rainy Mountain . . . . 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 once, I saw the mountain and came away.

Having completed this pilgrimage, Momaday returned to his own life with a greater sense of identity.

  • Further, in the composition of his book, Momaday placed on the left-hand side of the page historical passages from printed texts, but on the right-hand side of these pages, he juxtaposed these texts with personal accounts of his grandmother, such as her death and burial, that mark the interconnection of the true past with the present. These accounts that wax to the level of myth pay homage to his grandmother, whose death marked a monumental intersection of the past and extended to time immemorial with the present. From his grandmother, Momaday acquired an aesthetic imagination that produced that from which come legends.
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