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Free Study Guide for House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday-Summary
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CHAPTER 5: July 28


The opening paragraphs of this section are devoted to a moving description of the life of the land. The town is described as a place set apart from the rest of the world by geographical divisions and by the divisions of time. The life of the land in summer is described as "a seasonal equation of well-being and alertness." The creatures of the land, the quail, the roadrunner, the coyote, and the hawk are described intimately. The coyote are "an old council of clowns, and they are listened to." In the hills above the town, there are foxes and bobcats. Wolves have long since been exterminated by bounty hunters. Golden eagles are still present and sacred, but one is kept alive in a cage in the town. There are also smaller creatures like the lizard, the worm, and the frog. The domesticated animals, the beasts of burden and the pets are of a different quality. "They are born and die upon the land, but then they are gone away from it as if they had never been."

People came to the land from a ladder long ago. They came from the caves and the mesas. There are remnants of the early people in the caves. It seems as if they have just gone momentarily and will return soon. Then the bad dream of "invasion and change would have dissolved in an hour before the dawn."

The people who live in the town donít have many needs. They retain their essential ways of living even after the Christian conversion. They still pray in their old language to their old deities. They have only taken on the names and gestures of their enemies. They retain their "secret souls." They are resisting, overcoming, and outwaiting.

Abel walks into the canyon. He feels as if his return to his home has been a failure. He hasnít been able to get into the rhythm of life here. He knows the words of the language, but it doesnít come easily to him any more. He feels inarticulate. He walks along the "Valle Grande." He begins to feel something close to peace. He wants to make a song out of the colored canyon but canít fit the words together. It would have been a creation song. At noon he reaches an old copper mine long since abandoned. It seems like people were in a strange hurry in setting the mine up and in abandoning it. Now all its implements are returning to earth. He walks further on and can see the settlement at the springs where the Benevides house is. He hurries on.

Angela Grace St. John sits downstairs and waits for Abel to come. Sheís been waiting for days. She listens to the sounds of the day. Later in the day, she hears Abel enter the gate and begin working. This time he works hurriedly. She listens to him chopping wood for a while, and then she walks to the mineral spring and soaks in hot water for a long time. When she finishes, she is wrapped in towels and lies for a while until she dozes off. She senses a "vague presentiment of shame." She goes back to the house and finds Abel sitting on the stoop waiting for her. She asks him in and leads him to the kitchen. She feels grateful and chagrined. She no longer feels that she is in control. She feels as if she has no will. She says "All right." Then she asks Abel if he thinks sheís beautiful. He tells her he doesnít. She asks him if he would like to have sex with her. He says he would. She asks if he thinks she wants that. He says he does. She goes to him and they kiss. Then she leads him upstairs to her bedroom. They undress and have sex. She feels that Abel is masterful at lovemaking.

Itís evening out in the corn fields where Francisco is working. He hears whispers and canít figure out where they are coming from. He has a lot of work left to do. He thinks through the tasks he has ahead of him. He wonders if the whispers come from the field mice, but doesnít think so. He has been thinking of the past all day long. He feels some alien presence close at hand. He feels that itís been there a long time. He is not afraid, though, because he is so old. He only feels sad and wants to weep. He finishes the row of corn and blesses the field of corn.

The water backs up the furrow where he has worked and fills the prints his shoes have made. The black welts of mud which he made when he hoed the earth lay on the ground. There the breathing resumes. Francisco leaves the cornfield.


This section opens with a description of the fruits of the fields ripening for the upcoming harvest, an acknowledgment of the feast of Santiago. Three scenes of harvest are described in this section. First, the literal harvest season of the land, second, the consummation of the sexual attraction between Angela and Abel, and third, the sense of Franciscoís imminent death--the harvest of his long life.

The novel was written in 1966 and reveals the gender biases of the era. Momaday spends time cataloguing Angelaís body parts when she disrobes in front of Abel, but he doesnít describe Abelís body at all. Abel is dominating and powerful and Angel loses all control and becomes entirely passive in their sex.

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