House Made Of Dawn

Momaday forces the reader to see a clear distinction between how white people
and Native Americans use language. Momaday calls it the written word, the white
peopleís word, and the spoken word, the Native American word. The white
peopleís spoken word is so rigidly focused on the fundamental meaning of each
word that is lacks the imagery of the Native American word. It is like listening
to a contact being read aloud. Momaday clearly shows how the Native American
word speaks beyond its sound through Tosamah speaking of his Grandmother.

Tosamah says, "You see, for her words were medicine; they were magic and
invisible. They came from nothing into sound and meaning. They were beyond
price; they could neither be bought nor sold. And she never threw words away."
--Pg. 85 Momaday forces upon the reader the idea of language as a remedy for
sickness; not only of the mind, but of the heart, also. If a speaker can reach a
listener and show the listener what she means, then that is the most honorable
achievement. Momaday wants the reader to know the importance of word weaving, of
weaving the words to form a beautiful picture that can heal souls if spoken
correctly. Momaday believes that the Native Americans who never bothered to
learn to read and write, those who depend on their words, are those whose words
are most powerful. The love for words, spoken with passion, makes them take on a
three-dimensional quality. The words become the images and show a listener
instead of telling, making the moment an experience instead of just a moment.

The listener can feel what the speaker is trying to say; there is no need for
interpretation, everything is already understood. Momaday convinces the reader
that the spoken language goes beyond what words are being said; the words become
their meaning, transcend into complete understanding and clarity. The experience
should be remembered as one of self-revelation and understanding, not a moment
filled with monotonous words. Momaday does not think it should be about
memorizing the words for intellect, but about seeing the image they create. He
wants the reader to know how important the woven web of words is so that the
reader is able to understand how Native American tradition has lasted so long
without words being written; that it is not the remembrance of words, but the
remembrance of images. Momaday shows the reader twice how different the white
menís words are from the Native Americanís word. The first is with Tosamah
when he tells about the way John describes his insight. He says of John,

"...old John was a white man, and the white man has his ways, oh gracious me,
he has his ways. He talks about the Word. He talks through it and around it. He
builds upon it with syllables, with prefixes and suffixes and hyphens and
accents. He adds and divides and multiples the Word. And in all of this he
subtracts the truth." --Pg. 83 Momaday wants the reader to see how superficial
and trivial their words can be. Everything is stressed to be grammatically
correct instead of alive. The white manís words break everything down until
there is nothing left, nothing more to imagine and connect with. This is what

Momaday shows the reader by putting in Abelís questionnaire when he leaves
prison and enters relocation. Every part of Abel will be filed into a category,
denying Abel to be viewed as a whole and have his words heard by unbiased ears.

Through this Momaday shows the reader that there comes a point when there can be
too many words, when perfection has been attained and one more word ruins it.

This is what John has done. He tries to explain what he does not totally
understand, filling in the blanks with "prefixes and suffixes" until there
is no more meaning for the listener. The second time Momaday contrasts the white
menís language use with Native Americansí is at Abelís trial. The white
men at the trial refuse to listen to Abelís story, to open up their mindís
eye and see his words with all their animation and zeal. This is where Momaday
wants the reader to see that listening is as much a part of language as is
speaking. The white men refuse to even try and understand his culture, closing
their mindís eye and only hearing the words spoken for their sound. They
cannot picture his religion and belief because they do not let the words show
them. And so the dispose "of him