House Made of Dawn | Critical Review by The Times Literary Supplement

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of House Made of Dawn.
This section contains 398 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by The Times Literary Supplement

SOURCE: "Exhibition," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3508, May 22, 1969, p. 549.

In the following, the critic provides a mixed review of House Made of Dawn, questioning the novel's merit as a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

House Made of Dawn is about an American Indian called Abel. It is written in self-conscious prose, which can be as regularly rhythmical as Hiawatha, and has some of the sentimental primitivism of that poem. Abel, however, has moved on, and moved down, from the great days of Crows, Comanches and the rest; no golden-world reformist statesman he, no well conducted pursuer of a modern Minnehaha. Instead he is hoicked out of his "reservation"—a sort of goldfish bowl in which his fellownationals drift dreamily round in artificial preservative—for combat duty in the Second World War. From this he returns to his people demoralized, not belonging in a full sense to any culture, either primitive or mid-twentieth-century Los Angelesque. He murders a disgusting albino (symbolism here?), serves a prison-sentence, is "relocated", but fails again to make satisfying contact with urbanized members of his race. He starts drinking himself into stupors, has strenuous yet unmeaningful love-affairs—one with Millie, a white social worker who is in every way most obliging but still somehow won't do—is beaten up by L.A. toughies, and at last returns to the reservation and his people, where he is caught up in a last ritual flight from life—towards the "House made of Dawn".

Scott Momaday, an American Indian himself, understands the plight of his people, robbed of their splendid pagan culture and condemned to live either artificial "exhibition" lives in the reservations, or to paddle feebly in the backwaters of modern American urbanism. He has considerable descriptive power—the majestic flight of hunting eagles, for example, is beautifully caught; and there is a section in which Tosamah, "orator, physician, Priest of the Sun, son of Hummingbird", rehearses the ancient, trampled history of the Kiowas in trance-like, visionary prose that has moments of splendour.

Yet the rhetoric is a bit too facile, smacks somewhat of campus creative-writing, and on occasion creates a nebulosity opaque enough to count as self-parody. One can understand the Pultizer prize jury's being bowled over by it now and then; one is none the less surprised to note that it stayed mesmerized long enough by Mr. Momaday's bittern-boomings to award his book the prize.

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This section contains 398 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by The Times Literary Supplement