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

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Momaday depicts his grandmother as a spiritual woman who relied heavily on her faith to get through pain and suffering. He notes that she became a Christian later in her life but always retained her original Kiowa heritage. She remained hopeful and used prayer to keep up that optimism. Although...

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Momaday depicts his grandmother as a spiritual woman who relied heavily on her faith to get through pain and suffering. He notes that she became a Christian later in her life but always retained her original Kiowa heritage. She remained hopeful and used prayer to keep up that optimism. Although various memories of Aho are ingrained in his mind—standing at the stove and cooking, sitting at the window doing her beadwork, moving slowly with the assistance of her cane—Momaday states that his sharpest memory is of Aho praying.

Aho came from a proud and brave heritage, and she revered the sun, a trait that people have lost today. She had a respect for the land and nature around her, regarding is as "holy."

Momaday juxtaposes Aho's life with her death as he illustrates how important his grandmother was, not only to him but also to the community. In life, her house was always filled with people. Excitement and happiness abounded. In addition, the "aged visitors" came "to remind and be reminded of who they were." They talked and cooked, held prayer meetings and sang. Aho provided everyone a means to keep in touch with their heritage and to be together.

In death, there is a silence but her influence is still there. "The walls have closed in upon my grandmother's house." Momaday notes how small the house looks in emptiness. His grandmother's vibrant presence never made it seem that way, when she welcomed so many happy people to it.

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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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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.

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