Study Help Essay Questions


1. Find (or draw) four pictures, one for each section, that would make appropriate introductory images for each section. Write a brief explanation of your choice for each.

2. Silence has both positive and negative value in House Made of Dawn. Compare a passage or an instance of the positive quality of silence, and one showing silence as negative.

3. What does this novel have to say about language? Consider what Tosamah has to say about language and its power, the passages excerpted from questionnaires and legal documents, and Benally's songs. What makes a given use of language benign or destructive?

4. Momaday is a lyric poet and a painter. Analyze selected passages of description as poetic prose, attending to such elements as metaphor, simile, imagery, and so on.

5. Setting and place are very important in this novel. Contrast the settings of Walatowa and Los Angeles, as described in the novel; how do descriptions portray the atmosphere and mood of these places?

6. Religion is central to House Made of Dawn. Examine the depiction of, or references to, rituals from these religious traditions: Catholicism, traditional Pueblo religion, peyote religion, Navajo religion.

7. Language is expressed in both speech and writing. Discuss examples of different kinds of writing in House Made of Dawn (for instance, Francisco keeps a diary or journal, and Father Olguin reads a diary written by a predecessor). How is writing used and misused?

8. The title's emphasis on sunrise and dawn is elaborated in scenes and images throughout the book. Discuss images of sunrise and dawn and the importance of events that take place at this time of day.

9. Storytelling has many functions in both literate and pre-literate cultures. Look at two stories that characters in this novel tell. Who tells each story? Who is the audience? Does the story reflect important themes in the novel as a whole? Does telling the story make a difference in what happens?

10. The title of the novel refers to a house. What houses or dwelling places are described in the novel, and how do they relate to the book's major themes?

11. The snake is a creature with ambiguous meaning in House Made of Dawn. Trace references to snakes in the novel to determine possible significance(s).

12. If you are familiar with other fiction by American Indian writers, draw comparisons between Abel as returning warrior with figures like Tayo in Leslie Silko's Ceremony or Attis McCurtain in Louis Owens' The Sharpest Sight.

13. Examine the anthropological literature on the Kiowa, Jemez, and Navajo peoples to learn more about the cultures Momaday refers to.

Back to Top