Summary and Analysis Part 3: Los Angeles 1952


The title of the third part of House Made of Dawn designates the narrator, Ben Benally, a Navajo man who has been relocated from the rural, pastoral life of the northern Arizona/New Mexico Navajo reservation to the urban environment of Los Angeles. In traditional Navajo society, a chanter, or singer, is a person who knows one or more of the long, elaborate ceremonials that are held usually for the purpose of healing an individual from some spiritual, psychological, or physical disease. The chants, or "chantways," are religious rituals, and hence, Benally — like Tosamah and Francisco (and Father Olguin)-has a religious significance in the story of Abel's progress from sickness to health.

Navajo ceremonials are long and complex; some last as long as nine days. A chanter must memorize every detail — hundreds of lines of song and prayer, designs for dry painting, dance steps and costumes, recipes for herbal teas and emetics, and construction of sacred objects, like prayer wands. The Night Chant is one of the first ceremonials to have been studied by non-Navajo scholars; it was first translated and described by a military doctor and amateur anthropologist named Washington Matthews, who published a lengthy treatise on it in 1902. This translation has been the basis for almost all further study of the Night Chant and is the source of the phrase "house made of dawn," which Momaday used for the title of this novel.

This section of the novel continues the story of Abel's life in Los Angeles during the early months of 1952.

Back to Top