In "The Way to Rainy Mountain," how was Momaday's trip symbolic?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Momaday's grandmother died, he wanted to do two things: to visit her grave and to see for himself the plains over which his Kiowa ancestors had once journeyed. It is this trip, his going home, that he recounts so beautifully and in such detail in his personal narrative.

As he tells of his journey, he includes details about his grandmother's life and about the history and the culture of the Kiowa people from their earliest beginnings. He tells of the Kiowa myths and legends he learned from his grandmother, and he recounts the breaking of the tribe by the United States government. In telling his own story, Momaday tells the story of his people.

At the conclusion of his trip, he goes to his grandmother's grave:

The next morning 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.

He has completed his journey, to the site of his grandmother's burial and into his own cultural past.

Momaday's trip to Rainy Mountain is the story of one man's experience, but it suggests a universal human truth: Our need to understand who we are and what made us so. Momaday's trip symbolizes our need to connect to those who came before us and to find a deeper awareness of our own identity by embracing our cultural heritage.

Read the study guide:
The Way to Rainy Mountain

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