Narrative Style in "The Way to Rainy Mountain" by N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday's multi-genre work "The Way to Rainy Mountain" is part memoir, part folklore collection and part historical record. The unique narrative structure employed in the book helps to provide greater insight into the culture of the Kiowa Indians. However, those who do not understand the technique being used may find the book a little confusing. A study of the narrative devices being used can provide greater understanding of the themes.
The legends and mythology of the Kiowa Indians are translated into English and make up a significant part of the narrative of "The Way to Rainy Mountain." The inclusion of Kiowa folklore shares important information about the tribe's cultural identity and values. Sharing this folklore also underscores some of the themes in the book, including the importance of oral tradition, the power of imagination and the expression of creativity.The folklore at once helps both Momaday and the reader learn more about his culture.
Momaday weaves his personal reflections and memories into the folklore and other sections of the text. In doing so, he shows how the cultural traditions of the Kiowa Indians have influenced his beliefs and experiences, as well as how those traditions evolve or are interpreted differently with successive generations. The personal narration helps to ground the narrative and bring it into the real world. It also highlights the book's personal importance, making the narrative more subjective.
Momaday wrote the book as a way to better understand his cultural identity. Much of the historical information he discovered is included in the book as an anthropological report. Notes and commentaries are added from the perspective of historians. Including this information helps the reader go through a process of discovery much as Momaday did when putting the book together. The reader is made an active participant in the text to create meaning.
The book is broken into 24 stories arranged into three sections, each with three divisions. The divisions are "The Setting Out," "The Going On" and "The Closing In." By structuring the book this way, Momaday emphasizes spiritual and physical journeys reflected in the content. Each journey allows Momaday -- and the reader -- to learn something new about Kiowa culture or about his own belief system. The structure also creates tension between the three perspectives, which helps to create a more dynamic understanding of Kiowa culture.