House Made of Dawn

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The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a stranger in his native land

A young Native American, Abel has come home from a foreign war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his father's, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world -- modern, industrial America -- pulls at Abel, demanding his loyalty, claiming his soul, goading him into a destructive, compulsive cycle of dissipation and disgust. And the young man, torn in two, descends into hell.

Curriculet Details
43 Questions
41 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring literary elements such as motif and figurative language, as well as annotations on character development and context. Students will explore the themes of culture, duality, and memory. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Are there any words you need to look up on this page?  

Homework #7

Based on the description here, which statement best describes the setting? 
Why does Francisco include this information about the number of bucks and does he killed here? What might this reveal about Francisico's belief in omens and/or luck? 

Homework #8

This section about horse riding is a 
N. Scott Momaday grew up on several different Indian reservations as a child (his parents were teachers with the Bureau of Indian Affairs). Momaday is Cherokee and Kiowa, but his experiences with the tribes and landscapes of the southwest are apparent in this novel. Pictured: N. Scott Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts in 2007  (This annotation contains an image)
What happened to the Bahkyush people?  Was their plight uncommon among Native Americans in 19th century America? 
Momaday vividly describes the flight of these golden eagles. Thanks to modern technology, we can now see the flight of a golden eagle from its point of view (as seen in this video).  (This annotation contains a video)
The description of the jackrabbit as being both "brittle" and strong is an example of 
Read this brief article on the role of Native Americans in WWII, and consider how Abel's background makes his situation as a soldier more difficult than others.  (This annotation contains a link)
Abel appears to be having a flashback of what time in his life? 
Pay attention to how Momaday develops motifs, such as the wind and other elements of nature, throughout the novel.  (This annotation contains a video)
Consider the title of Part 1 -  "The Longhair."  What do you think the significance of this title is?  To whom does the title refer? 
Wind is an important symbol in Native American folklore. Read this short Abenaki legend about the wind and identify how it relates to Abel's connection to the wind.  (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #9

What best describes Angela's feelings toward Abel? 
The reader knows that Angela has come to Walatowa for some kind of "rest cure." This section reveals that she suffers from anxiety and perhaps a compulsive disorder.  
What word or phrase is emphasized in this last paragraph? 

Homework #10

The feast of Santiago (St. James) is celebrated on July 25th. Read this article on how different cultures celebrate this feast day, and contrast it with how the people of Walatowa observe the holiday.  (This annotation contains a link)
What is the role of ceremony in Abel's life?  What about in the lives of Francisco and Father Olguin? 
How would you describe the tone of this section? Does the violence described here signal a tonal shift?  (This annotation contains a video)
To whom is Father Nicolas addressing these diary entries? 
The feast of Christ's circumcision is celebrated on January 1st. Many see this as the beginning of the redemption of man through Christ because this is the first time Jesus bleeds. Pictured: Luca Signorelli's Circumcision of Christ, (1491)  (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Father Nicolas think that Francisco is evil? 
Momaday liberally uses metaphors and similes in his writing. Can you identify any examples of both in this section?  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #11

What can you tell about the narrator here based on the elements of nature and wildlife described? 
Abel feels unable to express himself articulately, which isolates him further after what he has experienced. As mentioned earlier (in the July 21 chapter), Abel only feels at home when alone in the wide expanses of the canyons.  (This annotation contains an image)
What surprises Angela most about the situation she finds herself in with Abel? 
How would you describe the structure of this book? Even though the parts and chapters are labeled chronologically, does the narrative follow that structure? (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #12

What literary element is used in the highlighted example? 
Thunderstorms commonly symbolize tension and violence. This building thunderstorm is foreshadowing a turbulent event. 
How has the perception of Father Olguin changed? 
The celebration described here includes elements of both Catholicism and indigenous religious rites. This highlights the duality of culture and beliefs characters like Abel and Francisco experience. 
Explain the possible ironic overtones of Native Americans ceremonially depicting the expulsion of the Moors in Spain.   
Abel obviously has an alcohol abuse problem. As both a war veteran and Native American, Abel would be at a high risk for alcoholism. Read this article on Native Americans and substance abuse, and keep in mind the role of religion as mentioned here as you read Part 2.  (This annotation contains a link)
Who did Abel kill? 

Homework #13

Quiz 1 

Homework #15

Here is a picture of what the "grunion run" looks like. Why do you think this is included here? What might be the significance of the repetition of "the moon"?  (This annotation contains an image)
What best describes Tosamah, the "Priest of the Sun"? 
Throughout the novel, Momaday uses repetition as a rhetorical device to emphasize and idea or characterization. Here, Tosamah repeats "the Word" throughout his sermon. This refers literally to the Word of God, but can also refer to "word" as in one's promise or vow.  (This annotation contains an image)
Analyze the use of storytelling as part of the narrative structure of the novel. 
What does the final line of Tosamah's sermon on St. John reveal about his character? What is behind the sentiment, "Get yours"?  (This annotation contains an image)
How did Abel feel about his trial for killing the albino? 
Running is a recurring motif in the novel. Running connects Abel to his grandfather and his culture. In this instance, it reminds Abel of his listlessness and isolation.  
In Abel's muddled memories, who is asking the survey questions? 
In whose estimation is this wrong? In Milly's? In Abel's? Why is it "wrong"? 
Explain the paradox of this statement. What other characters or settings in literature can be considered to be a combination of religious and profane? 
Several states have legalized the use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies because, as the U.S. Congress has stated, "for many Indian people, the traditional ceremonial use of the peyote cactus as a religious sacrament has for centuries been integral to a way of life, and significant in perpetuating Indian tribes and cultures." 
What is the overall effect of the ceremony (and peyote) on the men who speak and give "witness"? 
Can you identify the use of repetition in this section? What does it reveal about this character and how he views Abel? 
In addition to running, another motif (present in this section)  in the novel is 
Read Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach." Can you identify any similarities in imagery, tone, and theme between the poem and this italicized section?  (This annotation contains a link)
How is Milly set up to be a foil character to Angela?  How does her back story contribute to this? 

Homework #16

Rainy Mountain is a hill in Kiowa country, but it was also a boarding school opened in 1893 meant to assimilate Indians into the mainstream American way of life. The goal of these schools was to "eradicate all vestiges of Indian culture." It closed in 1920.  (This annotation contains an image)
Tosamah describes nature along the Yellowstone as a kind of house, but what is the drawback? 
In an article about the Kiowa Sundance in "The Chronicles of Oklahoma" in 1934, the (white) author writes of the Kiowa Sun Dance: "The Kiowas harmed no one, not even themselves, with their sun dance; they loved it and looked forward to it throughout the year. But unfortunately there were those among their white neighbors who simply could not bear the thought that such pagan practice should continue amidst the beneficent influences of 'civilization.' Continuous pressure was brought to bear on the government, until finally, in 1889, an order was issued to stop the dance. The Kiowas said they would hold it anyhow; a threat of military force from Fort Sill was then employed, and the great medicine dance came to a permanent close. Today no one cares whether the Kiowas dance or not; but it is too late. They have other interests, and too few old people survive who are familiar with the ritual."  
What frightened Tosamah the morning after his grandmother's funeral? 
Quiz 2 

Homework #18

Notice how the title of Part 3 ("The Night Chanter") might signal a shift in the narration. How might the image of "night" contrast with the main image of "dawn" in the novel?  (This annotation contains an image)
Identify elements of Ben's narration that are unique to him.  What do these traits reveal about his character? 
What role did Milly play for both Abel and Ben? 
The Navajo Night Chant (this specific chant is one example) is basically a healing ritual. It is usually celebrated in the late fall. Listen to this excerpt of a Night Chant recorded in the 1950s.  (This annotation contains a video)
According to Ben, what was Abel's downfall? 
Can you remember any specific instances from Part 1 where Abel or his grandfather believed in omens or premonitions? 
Analyze how the Indian Relocation Program has influenced (positively and/or negatively) Ben's and Abel's lives.Why was such a program in place? 
Identify examples of external and internal conflict concerning Abel based on Ben's narration.  (This annotation contains a video)
What does Ben think about how "they" treated Abel? 
Out of all of the characters, Ben seems to be the one who has the best understanding of Abel and his motivations. This is probably because they are from similar backgrounds (they both grew up on reservations), and know what it is like to have to straddle two different worlds. 
Why does Ben think that Milly is so easily hurt? 
Part 3 stands out from the first two parts structurally and content wise. Can you expand on why/how?  
What does the rain represent here?  Is this different from the thunderstorm in Part 1? 
This song, rich in imagery and metaphor, is another example of Ben's connection to Navajo chanting and storytelling. Would you consider Ben to be a "longhair"?  
What is the narrative point of view in this italicized section? 
Who similarly humiliated Abel earlier in the novel? 
Ben's narrative is characterized mainly by 
What is the purpose of this anecdote? How does old Carlozini compare to the other female characters, particularly Tosamah's grandmother? 
Do you think Abel is acting "crazy"?  What other specific examples of his behavior supports your position? 
How does the author develop tension here? What do you think Abel has done?  (This annotation contains a video)
What surprises Ben about Angela's story? 
Ben has made a promise that he and Abel will get together again and will sing about the house of dawn (among other things). How likely do you think this is?  (This annotation contains an image)

Homework #20

How has Father Olguin changed since we last saw him? 
Take a look at the dates given at the beginning of each chapter. What is their significance? How might the months correlate to the action taking place?  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the effect of this stream-of-conscious style of writing on the reader?  How does it reflect the state of mind of Francisco? 
Reflect on the different meanings of the word "dawn," as well as how these meanings are represented throughout the novel. 
What does Francisco's killing of the bear represent? 
How does the author use imagery to set the scene here?  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #21

Identify which quote is a simile.  
Quiz 3 
Do you think Abel has gained any peace or wisdom by the end of the novel? How will the death of his grandfather influence his future?