Symbolism of the Yellow Raft in Yellow Raft in Blue Water

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Symbolism of the Yellow Raft in Yellow Raft in Blue Water

Native American’s find symbolism in many everyday items and colors are no exception. They believe that yellow is a conflicting motif, on one hand it denotes happiness, joy, and contentment but on the other hand it is the color of cowardice, deceit, and hurt. Michael Dorris, the author of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, coming from a Native American background, most likely considered this while choosing the title for this bestseller. It is overflowing with hidden meanings for the color of yellow, especially in Rayona’s section.

One of the first instances when yellow occurs is when Rayona and Father Tom jump aboard the ‘God Squad Express’ heading to the Teens for Christ Jamboree. While traveling, Father Tom decides they should stop at Bearpaw Lake State Park for a rest and dip in the lake Rayona without hesitation soars into the icy water and swims out to a lonely yellow raft. “By the time I get to the low yellow raft, I’m out of breath and chilled. I pull myself over the side and lie on the sun warmed dry boards, panting and soaking up the heat. The silence is wide as the sky”. (P59) Rayona feels gleeful and peaceful on this raft, but the calmness is shattered by Father Tom’s arrival. After jumping into the water, he developed a cramp and Rayona saves him, she pulls him onto the raft, and they lay close. “We are the same size, from toe to head. He presses, presses, presses and the air leaves my lungs. I want to sleep, to drown, to bore deep within the boards of the raft.” (P60) Father Tom violated Rayona’s sense of security, she felt safe, but the raft was deceptive.

The yellow raft also is dangerous for Rayona, she uses as a way to escape her ...

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...ut falls the letter from her imaginary family. She realizes that she no longer needs or believes in that fantasy and quickly crumbles it up and throws it away. On the drive back, Christine dons a pair of smudged amber tinted sunglasses. “When I put them on, they turned the world yellow as an old photograph.” (P239) Even though the glasses are smudged, the yellow world Christine sees represents her newfound happiness.

Yellow represents many things in this novel, without the references to it; the plot and themes would be completely different. The raft represented false security and escape for Rayona, but also relief when she was able to share her secret with Evelyn. For Christine the color yellow represents failure when she could not cross the bridge, but near the end of her life, the yellow symbolized safety and contentment.


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