The Way to Rainy Mountain

N. Scott Momaday Character Analysis

Momaday is the writer and narrator of this memoir, and, as such, is its central character. He is of Kiowa anscestry, but he does not speak the Kiowa language and he was born after the time when Kiowa culture was at its peak. Momaday claims that his knowledge of Kiowa life and culture comes exclusively from his family’s memories and the rich Kiowa oral tradition that passed down the history and values of his tribe. Momaday’s presence is most felt through his recollections, which show him to be a deeply curious, spiritual, and family-oriented man. Aside from the parts of his personality that come out through his memories, though, readers do not learn much about him. The story focuses more on his family members and the stories of his tribe.

N. Scott Momaday Quotes in The Way to Rainy Mountain

The The Way to Rainy Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by N. Scott Momaday or refer to N. Scott Momaday. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the University of New Mexico Press edition of The Way to Rainy Mountain published in 1976.
Prologue Quotes

In one sense, then, the way to Rainy Mountain is preeminently the history of an idea, man’s idea of himself, and it has old and essential being in language. The verbal tradition by which it has been preserved has suffered a deterioration in time. What remains is fragmentary: mythology, legend, lore, and hearsay—and of course the idea itself, as crucial and complete as it ever was. That is the miracle.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Related Symbols: Rainy Mountain
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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The buffalo was the animal representation of the sun, the essential and sacrificial victim of the Sun Dance. When the wild herds were destroyed, so too was the will of the Kiowa people; there was nothing to sustain them in spirit. But these are idle recollections, the mean and ordinary agonies of human history. The interim was a time of great adventure and nobility and fulfillment.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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The imaginative experience and the historical express equally the traditions of man’s reality.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Your imagination comes to life, and this, you think, is where Creation was begun.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rainy Mountain
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Introduction Quotes

Although my grandmother lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continental interior lay like memory in her blood.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), Aho
Related Symbols: Rainy Mountain
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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There is a perfect freedom in the mountains, but it belongs to the eagle and the elk, the badger and the bear. The Kiowas reckoned their stature by the distance they could see, and they were bent and blind in the wilderness.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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My grandmother was there. Without bitterness, and for as long as she lived, she bore a vision of deicide.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), Aho
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Their wives and daughters served them well. The women might indulge themselves; gossip was at once the mark and compensation of their servitude. They made loud and elaborate talk among themselves, full of jest and gesture, fright and false alarm.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), Aho
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Setting Out Quotes

There was a great holiness all about in the room, as if an old person had died there or a child had been born.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday, Tai-me
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Closing In Quotes

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Epilogue Quotes

The falling stars seemed to imagine the sudden and violent disintegration of an old order.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

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The culture would persist for a while in decline, until about 1875, but then it would be gone, and there would be very little material evidence that it had ever been. Yet it is within the reach of memory still, though tenuously now, and moreover it is even defined in a remarkably rich and living verbal tradition which demands to be preserved for its own sake. The living memory and the verbal tradition which transcends it were brought together once and for all in the person of Ko-sahn.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker)
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

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N. Scott Momaday Character Timeline in The Way to Rainy Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character N. Scott Momaday appears in The Way to Rainy Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Memory and History Theme Icon
Nature, Landscape, and Animals Theme Icon
Momaday immediately introduces the arc of the story of the Kiowas, noting that their migration from... (full context)
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Mixing of Cultures Theme Icon
Momaday introduces Tai-me without explaining what Tai-me is—he writes simply that Tai-me came to the Kiowas... (full context)
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Stepping back, Momaday explains that the story of Kiowa migration is not only the history of the Kiowas,... (full context)
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To explain his writing process and the importance of the book, Momaday suggests that the responsibility of the imagination is to tell an old story in a... (full context)
Introduction
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Momaday describes the landscape of Rainy Mountain, which is a knoll (hill) in the Oklahoma plains... (full context)
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Momaday then locates himself in time, saying that he had first returned to Rainy Mountain last... (full context)
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Aho is Momaday’s entry-point into the tribe’s history; she was born at the last great moment of Kiowa... (full context)
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Momaday then moves to give context for the mysterious history of the Kiowas, noting that they... (full context)
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Momaday returns to Aho, writing that though she lived her whole life by Rainy Mountain in... (full context)
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Momaday begins at Yellowstone, where he describes the landscape as beautiful but crowded. The Kiowa understood... (full context)
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In the Black Hills, Momaday notices Devil’s Tower, a striking stone landform with striated edges that look like clawmarks. He... (full context)
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Momaday notes, also, that his grandmother became a Christian later in life, though she never forgot... (full context)
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With his grandmother now only existing in memory, Momaday attempts to describe what was characteristic of her. Prayer is what he most remembers—he writes... (full context)
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When his grandmother was younger, Momaday remembers that her house was always full of chatter—Momaday suggests that this was an indication... (full context)
The Setting Out
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...themselves after dogs back then, valuing standing their ground in battle regardless of the cost. Momaday then remembers the dogs that frequented his grandmother’s house. They were “nameless and lived a... (full context)
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...voice of historical commentary notes that this root was the pomme blanche, a turnip-like plant. Momaday then quotes the anthropologist James Mooney, explaining that the Kiowas were always hunters and never... (full context)
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...While the Kiowas camped it rained hard and spiders began to pour from the earth. Momaday’s personal memory then turns to spiders, describing crotchety tarantulas crawling the dusty roads of the... (full context)
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...last time, and that the Kiowas had more horses per person than any other tribe. Momaday’s personal memory speaks of swimming in the Washita River. He remembers fixating on details of... (full context)
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...they take their names with them, and nobody is allowed to speak those names again. Momaday’s personal memory then tells of the word Aho used when confronted with something frightening. He... (full context)
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...other transforms himself into ten different “medicines” (objects of religious veneration with different special uses). Momaday then remembers his father telling him about going to a shrine with powerful medicine. The... (full context)
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...kept in a box and never exposed to the sun except at the Sun Dance. Momaday then remembers going to see the Tai-me bundle. He made an offering, and felt a... (full context)
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...priest sit around a fire singing and drumming and praying before a midnight baptismal ceremony. Momaday then writes that Mammedaty was a peyote man who could see things that others could... (full context)
The Going On
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...history describes a decorated tipi that was destroyed by fire in the late nineteenth century. Momaday’s personal memory is of walking through the Rainy Mountain cemetery and the earth seeming to... (full context)
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...history interjects that old men were the best arrowmakers because they were experienced and patient. Momaday then remembers his father telling of an old arrowmaker who used to visit him when... (full context)
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...states that the plains can be serene sometimes and wracked by violent weather at others. Momaday then remembers the storm cellar by his grandmother’s house. He says he has seen it... (full context)
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...thought that the Kiowas were better looking than the Comanches and Wichitas. The voice of Momaday’s memory describes Catlin’s portrait of a Kiowa man, reflecting that he looks strong, at ease,... (full context)
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...not at all resemble the wild ones of the past—so that they could hunt it. Momaday then remembers that once while walking by a herd of calving buffalo a mother buffalo... (full context)
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...Kiowa women. They had low status, and were subject to all kinds of physical punishments. Momaday then remembers that Mammedaty’s grandmother was a Mexican captive who would not submit to the... (full context)
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...travel was impossible and hunting arduous. Horses transformed Kiowas into nomadic warriors and buffalo hunters. Momaday then remembers how cherished summers were at Rainy Mountain, and how during the summer he... (full context)
The Closing In
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...and their horses and weapons were confiscated. The government then slaughtered and sold their horses. Momaday quotes James Mooney, who recounts that once the buffalo disappeared, the Kiowa tried a Sun... (full context)
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...a Kiowa man sacrificed one of his best horses to spare himself and his family. Momady, in the voice of his memory, then reflects on this man, empathizing with his love... (full context)
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...kind looking. His veins stand out in his small hands, which is a “family characteristic.” Momaday then remembers that in his life Mammedaty saw four remarkable things: the child in the... (full context)
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...called Little Red, and the loss of that horse defined the season for the Kiowas. Momaday then remembers that as a child he would look at a box of bones in... (full context)
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...mother. If someone showed the medicine bundle disrespect it would grow heavy around his neck. Momaday remembers an enormous kettle on his grandmother’s porch that collected the rainwater for hair washing.... (full context)
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...of history says that Aho’s moccasins are made of skins and ornamented with beads, and Momaday then remembers the sunrise east of Aho’s house. He says that it’s important sometimes to... (full context)
Epilogue
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Momaday then zooms out to place the golden age of the Kiowas from about 1740-1840, though... (full context)
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Momaday then states that living memory and verbal tradition were brought together for him in a... (full context)