A Point of View
In this novel, Momaday often shifts from one point of view to another; as a result, it is not always clear whose thoughts are being related, or when, or what they have to do with the overall story. At first it seems that Abel will be the focus of the novel, but soon the point of view shifts to Francisco. Moreover, there is little consistency in the point of view: while it seldom shifts from one person’s perspective to another within one scene, it does not follow a pattern of staying with any one point of view for a whole chapter, or even a section.
For example, Father Olguin gains perspective about what the reservation was like in the last century from the diary that he reads that was written by his predecessor. Momaday is able to relate his ideas about the relationship between Native American religion and Christian religion through the sermons of Tosamah. The incidents of Abel’s life in Los Angeles are not related through his point of view, but from Benally’s perspective.
By shifting point of view frequently and sporadically, it is possible for Momaday to have Abel be the central character in the book without delving deeply into his thoughts and to present the communal point of view that is more characteristic of Native American thought than of the European tradition.
More than most novels, the setting of House Made of Dawn is integral to its purpose. Because the story is about a man torn between his Native American world and the white world, the reservation is rendered quite differently from that of Los Angeles. At times, the story goes beyond obvious, rational differences and considers fundamental ways in which people of the different settings think differently.
One reason that House Made of Dawn made such a powerful impact when it was published was for its treatment of Native American folklore and the values these tales passed on to subsequent generations. In Western culture, readers look for the “moral” of a story, especially one that is told in the context of a religious lesson. In the case of folklore, interpretation for an audience of outsiders is almost impossible, so it is hard to explain the culture that values them. On the contrary, the fact that Western myths can be made so accessible is one of the factors that has helped Western culture dominate the globe during the age of colonization.