Summary and Analysis Part 4: 28-Feb


This is the last chapter of the novel, and one of the shortest. Abel wakes suddenly some time before dawn. In the chill room, he senses a profound stillness and realizes that his grandfather is dead. By the light of the glowing embers, he prepares the body in the ritual manner, washing and braiding the hair and dressing the body in the old man's best clothes: a dark red velveteen shirt, white pants, and moccasins. He completes the appropriate offerings of pollen and meal and places significant objects — corn, feathers, and his grandfather's ledger book — alongside the body. Then, in the darkness, Abel walks to the rectory and awakens Father Olguin with the news that his grandfather is dead and that the priest must bury him. The priest is at first irritated and out of sorts at having been awakened too early, but as Abel disappears into the darkness, Father Olguin suddenly shouts after him the words "I understand!"

In the book's conclusion, the omniscient narrator follows Abel as he walks to the edge of town without returning to his grandfather's house. As the first light begins to wash over the landscape, he reaches a group of men huddled together, waiting upon the dawn. Suddenly, without warning, the men begin to run.

After a startled moment, Abel runs with them. He runs through the snow on the ground and through a drizzling rain that has begun to fall. Out of condition, he falls and suffers from shortness of breath and pain in all his limbs. However, he keeps running, at first aware of the men ahead of him but then concentrated solely within himself, giving himself totally over to the act. This scene recapitulates the opening of the book, the prologue which described from a panoramic perspective high above the plain, Abel, a solitary figure, running through the dawn rain. At last, under his breath, he begins to sing. The book ends with Abel's song, lines from the Night Chant prayer that Benally had sung to him: house made of pollen, house made of dawn. As the novel opens with the traditional Jemez formula for opening a story, the final word ends the story with the traditional Jemez storytelling closure.


kaolin a fine white clay used in porcelain making, for medicine, and as a body paint.

Qtsedaba This closing formula signals the end of a story (Jemez).

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