Momaday's "The Way to Rainy Mountain" incorporates many different styles and narrrative devices. Discuss them.
Momaday's story is one of personal reflection, a masterful blend of narration, exposition, and description. He moves among these types of writing seamlessly. By the conclusion of the story, he has told his own story, his grandmother's story, and the history of the Kiowa people, replete with explanations of tribal myth and legend.
Sometimes his tone is straightforward and objective as he relates significant facts; sometimes his tone is intensely emotional, especially when speaking of his grandmother. He says that when she died, "her face was that of a child."
The story begins with a lyrical description of Rainy Mountain. The language is poetic. The summer prairie is "an anvil's edge." The "steaming foliage seems almost to writhe." The grasshoppers are "popping up like corn." Momaday uses simile, metaphor, and personification within the first few lines of his story. They permeate the rest of the story, as well.
The title is in itself significant, suggestive of the story's theme. Momaday doesn't take a trip to Rainy Mountain. He makes his way, in much the same way as his ancestors. His is a symbolic journey, as well as a personal one. When he stands at his grandmother's grave at the narrative's conclusion, he embraces not only her memory, but also his own heritage. His grandmother's grave lies "at the end of a long and legendary way . . . ." Momaday writes, "I saw the mountain and came away." He has changed in a significant way.
Momaday conveys the story of his ancestors, the Kiowa people—and specifically, his grandmother Aho—in a manner that more often resembles traditional symbolic storytelling than straightforward and factual narration. The author writes in first-person in both the Introduction and the Epilogue in order to share the basic details of his personal history. The Prologue and the two poems that frame the book are written in more formal third-person speech, describing these Native Americans and the places where they lived. Each one of these pieces helps to set the stage for the main body of the work, which is divided into 24 chapters. Each chapter consists of just three paragraphs:
- First: A traditional Kiowa tale or part of a re-telling of tribal history.
- Second: Further known details about whatever is suggested in the tale.
- Third: Momaday’s own intersection with the place, the people, or the event described in the tale.
This pattern holds through chapter 20. In chapters 21–24, the opening tale is replaced by the general genealogy of Momaday’s people, serving to bring the history closer to him and to the present day. In this way, Momaday is able to find both his spiritual/metaphoric and literal “way” back to his people by considering the past and how it applies to him today. The approach allows him to establish a meaningful connection with the long culture of his family. We readers just tag along, as he does.