A Yellow Raft in Blue Water By Michael Dorris Summary and Analysis Christine: Chapter 11

Summary

Christine moves into Elgin's apartment, waiting for the day when Elgin will be released from military duty on a nearby base. The two talk on the phone to each other nightly. Finally, Elgin is released from the military.

Christine becomes pregnant with Elgin's child, and Elgin seems to like the idea that he'll be a father. They move to Seattle, and Elgin becomes a mailman; Christine stays home. Although Christine wants a picture-perfect wedding ceremony, they get married in the Seattle federal courthouse.

Christine and Elgin soon drift apart emotionally and physically. Elgin stays out late at night and sometimes doesn't even come home. Eventually, the two begin to fight about Elgin's behavior, and Elgin accuses Christine of being a bitch. Christine accuses Elgin of having an affair, which Elgin doesn't deny.

Christine is devastated one day when she gets a letter from Dayton informing her that Lee is dead. Immediately after she reads the letter, Christine goes into labor. Taking a cab to the hospital, she has a baby girl, which she names "Rayona" (from the word "rayon," a type of material). When Elgin finally shows up at the hospital, Christine shows the letter about Lee's death to him. Elgin promises her that he'll start being a better husband, but their relationship continues to be strained. Elgin stays out later and later, and he doesn't come home for long periods of time. Only once in a while does he come home.

Analysis

Although Christine's comment, "I didn't take precautions," refers to the fact that she didn't use birth control, it also has a deeper meaning: She's wanted for so long to be unquestioningly accepted that she rushes headfirst into her relationship with Elgin. However, now pregnant and married, she's again forced to accept that her world is anything but ideal. By the end of the Chapter, the marriage has deteriorated to the point that Elgin often doesn't come home at night after work, and when he does, "something was missing." Christine notes, "My wedding ring cut into my swollen finger." She acknowledges that "Elgin was gum on the sole of my shoe."

Dorris' use of the color yellow is especially poignant here in Chapter 11. Having learned that Lee is dead, Christine rushes to the hospital to deliver her child. However, when her life seems to be at its lowest, Dorris reinforces the notion of Christine's resiliency to face life's problems by swaddling the newborn Rayona in a yellow blanket. Symbolically, then, Rayona will be both the safety net that Christine so desperately needs and, at the same time, the source of much conflict and worry for her.

Glossary

C&W club a country-western club.

that fish-eyed desk clerk a suspicious-looking desk clerk.

IHS the Indian Health Service Hospital.

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