Throughout House Made of Dawn Momaday forces the reader to see a clear distinction between how white people and Native Americans use language. Momaday calls it the written word, the white people’s word, and the spoken word, the Native American word. The white people’s spoken word is so rigidly focused on the fundamental meaning of each word that is lacks the imagery of the Native American word. It is like listening to a contract being read aloud.
Momaday clearly shows how the Native American word speaks beyond its sound through Tosamah speaking of his Grandmother. Tosamah says,
"You see, for her words were medicine; they were magic and invisible. They came from nothing into sound and meaning. They were beyond price; they could neither be bought nor sold. And she never threw words away." --Pg. 85
Momaday forces upon the reader the idea of language as a remedy for sickness; not only of the mind, but of the heart, also. If a speaker can reach a listener and show the listener what she means, then that is the most honorable achievement. Momaday wants the reader to know the importance of word weaving, of weaving the words to form a beautiful picture that can heal souls if spoken correctly. Momaday believes that the Native Americans who never bothered to learn to read and write, those who depend on their words, are those whose words are most powerful. The love for words, spoken with passion, makes them take on a three-dimensional quality. The words become the images and show a listener instead of telling, making the moment an experience instead of just a moment. The listener can feel what the speaker is trying to say; there is no need for interpretation, everything is already understood. Momaday convinces the reader that the spoken language goes beyond what words are being said; the words become their meaning, transcend into complete understanding and clarity. The experience should be remembered as one of self-revelation and understanding, not a moment filled with monotonous words. Momaday does not think it should be about memorizing the words for intellect, but about seeing the image they create. He wants the reader to know how important the woven web of words is so that the reader is able to understand how Native American tradition has lasted so long without words being written; that it is not the remembrance of words, but the remembranc...
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...ention given to words when Abel only speaks to his Grandfather when his life has come full circle, even though Abel has wanted to since he came home the first time after the war. The significance of Abel’s silence shows just how much weight he puts on whatever he does say, reflecting the Native American view of the importance of words.
Momaday makes me view language in a new way. He has forced me to think about how I speak and treat each word with respect so that I am able to grasp the picture it paints. And I now believe that every word can have a picture if placed correctly, whether it be obvious or merely a color associated with an emotion. The way in which some people abuse words and let them become only the words on a questionnaire is horrifying. It’s as if they lose an emotion, their speech being monotonous and drab. Momaday stresses these points and I feel he has a right to show the revere with which Native Americans regard words and the inconsequence with which many white people view words. If the reader is willing to open their mind’s eye to see the beautiful picture words can paint, Momaday has achieved what he wanted to, as well as brightening the life of that reader.
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