A Yellow Raft in Blue Water By Michael Dorris Summary and Analysis Rayona: Chapter 3

Summary

Rayona and Aunt Ida settle into an uneasy routine. Aunt Ida watches television all day and night, speaking to characters on different programs as if they were in the room and she were familiar with them. Rayona spends most of her time in Christine's former bedroom. She wears her mom's old clothes, including pedal pushers, and looks at piles of loose photographs that she finds underneath her bed. She also learns that Christine is staying at the home of Dayton, who was the best friend of Christine's brother, Lee, when they were all growing up on the reservation. Lee is now dead.

Father Hurlburt, a reservation priest, visits Ida and Rayona. He cajoles Rayona into attending meetings of the "God Squad," an informal group of reservation kids who meet at the Catholic mission. Two days later, Rayona attends her first meeting, accompanied by Father Tom Novak, who runs the group. To Rayona, Father Tom is a "real jerk, a dork."

At the God Squad meeting, Rayona meets Annabelle Stiffarm and Kennedy Cree, nicknamed Foxy, who is Rayona's cousin. No other kids attend. Annabelle and Foxy dislike Rayona and are rude to her. They leave, and Father Tom tries to console Rayona, who rejects his friendship. However, although Rayona distrusts Father Tom, as she does everyone else, too, she becomes his "favorite," much to her disgust.

Christine's pills, sent by Charlene, arrive at Aunt Ida's house, but Christine doesn't pick them up, which upsets Rayona because she thought she'd see her mother when Christine came to get the package. Rayona is also upset because Foxy and the other kids refuse to accept her and make fun of her mixed racial heritage.

Only Father Tom seems nice to her, and she doesn't even like him. Also, Father Tom seems overly interested in Rayona's pubescent maturity as a woman and asks if she has dreams about sex.

Analysis

Rayona's living with Ida allows her to experience her mother's history in ways that she never would have before. Rayona wears Christine's old pedal pushers, views 1950s pop-singer posters still tacked on Christine's bedroom walls, and looks through Christine's old high-school notebooks. What grabs Rayona's attention most is a graduation picture of Christine. Rayona tries to see a resemblance of herself in the graduation picture. She wants to find her place in the world, an identity that fits within Christine's life experiences.

The personal identity that Rayona so desperately wants to find is tied up with Aunt Ida, although Rayona doesn't recognize it. Growing up in Seattle, Rayona learned the Indian language, which symbolizes the personal history that Christine thought was important to instill in her daughter. Although Rayona doesn't completely realize the importance of the Indian language, she acknowledges that Christine taught her the language in order to "give me my identity." Listening to Aunt Ida speak nothing but the Indian language, Rayona is glad that she learned it but doesn't think anything more about it.

Even on the reservation, Rayona is stigmatized by her dual racial heritage. Foxy Cree and Annabelle Stiffarm cruelly tease her about her father's being black. To Father Tom, Rayona feels like she's his "special project." To compensate for her differences, Rayona makes her mind "blank" and therefore doesn't have to face the fact that she's an outcast from her peers on the reservation.

Ironically, the only thing that still attaches Rayona to her mother is the medicine package that Charlene ships to Aunt Ida's. She thinks to herself, "Having that box in the room makes me feel better, like a promise that might be kept. Sooner or later it will lure Mom." In Chapter 1, when Rayona's father, Elgin, entered Christine's hospital room, Rayona had also thought of packages: "He inspects me like a first-class package, looking for loose flaps." Unfortunately, Rayona will be disappointed in Christine's medicine box being a lure to bring her mother back to Aunt Ida's.

The relationship between Rayona and Father Tom is one-sided. Father Tom seems to latch onto Rayona because she is as much of a misfit as he is. His inappropriate comments to her about sex will reach a new level in the next Chapter, when he apparently makes a sexual advance toward her on the yellow raft.

Glossary

for special clothes worn for a "dress up" occasion.

Oakdale the fictional setting for the soap opera As the World Turns.

a bead in the living rosary . . . between the first and second joyful mysteries Rosary beads contain beads symbolic of Joyful Mysteries, Sorrowful Mysteries, and Glorious Mysteries. The first Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation; the second, the Visitation; examples of Sorrowful Mysteries include the Agony in the Garden and the Crowning with Thorns.

St. Dominic Savio The son of a peasant, Dominic was born in Italy in 1842. When he was twelve years old, he vowed to become a priest and began studying in Turin, sweeping floors and counseling young boys who were considered misfits. Once, when two boys were about to stone one another, Dominic stepped between them, reminding them of Christ's sinless soul and telling them to stone him, Dominic, rather than one another. Three years later, he died and was beatified in 1950 and canonized in 1954. He is the patron saint of choirboys.

teased into a rat's nest A woman backcombs all of her hair until it is enormously bouffant and then lacquers it thoroughly with hair spray.

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