House Made of Dawn | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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House Made of Dawn | Prologue | Summary


House Made of Dawn is divided into chapters, each of which is further divided by dates. In this study guide, the longest of the chapters, "The Longhair," has been divided into smaller sections for the purpose of summary and analysis.


Abel is running. The prologue is only three paragraphs long, and in them the only action is Abel running. The narrator describes the land and its aspects—horses, dark wilderness, juniper, and mesquite. "He could see the horses in the fields and the crooked line of the river below." In this richly described landscape, Abel runs. He is "naked to the waist," and the skin of his arms and shoulders is "marked with burnt wood and ashes." It is raining, a "winter sky," and dawn.


The prologue sets up the story's frame and focus. There is a man, and he is connected to the land. He is a Native American, and he has found within himself and this land an ability to reach a peace that is rare and enviable in an era of isolation.

Part of what Momaday achieves in these brief paragraphs is the sense of place and Abel's connection to it. The land is more than the details of what's around him. It has a unique personality. The state of New Mexico has an unusual terrain, filled with juniper and mesquite. Abel exists in this scene as a part of it, not an observer.

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