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Rite of Encounter
Rite of Encounter is, initially a very dry and imposing story. The reader is given same information repeatedly, as if it were not received the first time. This redundancy is an insult to the reader. For instance, in the very first line of the story the narrator tells the reader that, "In the third week of his fasting, Singing- Owl found the white man" (258). This information is given quite clearly, yet later the narrator repeats himself by saying, "A dog meant white men" (259). It is not necessary for the narrator to remind the reader. This "spoon-feeding" is insulting to the reader. The narration was also rather dry. There is little description. The story is conveyed to the reader without any details, and quite plainly, the story is simply reported. The omniscient third person narration is also, at times, confusing. The narration occasionally dips from third person to first without any explanation. For example, when Singing- Owl is suffering of dehydration, fatigue, and hunger the narrator is reporting the condition of the character. Suddenly, the next line reads, "Water. Must get water" (258). It is unclear who says this. Not suprisingly, Bates, employs this strange tactic again to demonstrate Singing- Owl's exhaustion. The narrator comments on Singing- Owl's declining condition, then says, "Perhaps I'm tired. All right. I am tired" (261). Again, the reader is left unassured of who is speaking. This intentional alteration of narration only robs the story of unity.
There is, however, one manipulation of the characters which is interesting. Smallpox is characterized beautifully. Giving life to a disease gives life to a story, which, from the beginning, is dragging on without such animation. Smallpox mocks our "hero", Singing- Owl. This tormenting by a naturally inanimate character saturates the story with fantasy and mysticism.
The conclusion of the story, unfortunately, leaves the reader with the same sense of disappointment with which it was started. Singing- Owl, rather than becoming a hero, becomes a marionette for Smallpox to control. Singing- Owl breaks down and agrees to bring Smallpox back to the tribe. Even though Singing- Owl does not completely understand the methods of Smallpox, he does understand the negative repercussions. Yet, Singing- Owl grants Smallpox's wish. This event is disappointing to the reader and degrades the main character. Singing- Owl gains some redemption by trying to infect his enemies, but is not effective and is going to die a dishonored man.
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There is, yet another disappointment. The events leading up to the climax are superfluous and consuming. The events occupying the period of time from meeting Smallpox and bringing him to the camp are useless. Bates gives numerous examples of how Singing- Owl tries to lose Smallpox. These descriptions are given in vaine. It does not further the plot.
Rite of Encounter does not offer any fantastic insight or even a sufficient entertainment value. Smallpox was depicted beautifully, but the remaining details in the story were reported poorly and distantly.