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Key Facts

full title  ·  A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

author  ·  Michael Dorris

type of work  ·  Novel

genre  ·  Coming-of-age story; tale of conflict among generations

language  ·  English

time and place written  ·  1984, Minnesota

date of first publication  ·  1987

publisher  ·  Warner Books

narrators ·  Rayona, Christine, Ida

point of view  ·  Each section of the novel is told from a different point of view. The first section is told from Rayona’s perspective, the second from Christine’s, and the third from Ida’s.

tone  ·  The tone varies depending on the narrator. Rayona’s voice is both jaded and naïve, Christine’s voice is irresponsible and playful, and Ida’s voice is resentful yet caring.

tense ·  Rayona speaks in the present tense, and Christine and Ida speak in the past tense.

settings (time)  ·  The three stories overlap, but each story spans a rough time period: the 1980s for Rayona, the 1960s to the 1980s for Christine, and the 1940s to the 1960s for Ida.

settings (place)  ·  The novel opens in Seattle, and then moves to a reservation in Montana. Most of the events in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water take place in one of these two locales, although Ida also spends some time in Colorado.

protagonists  ·  Rayona, Christine, Ida

major conflict ·  Rayona wants to belong and struggles to connect to her family; Christine wants to raise Rayona better than Ida raised her but struggles to convert her feelings to action; Ida wants to interact with the world only on her own terms.

rising action ·  Clara gives birth to Christine; Christine finds out that Lee is dead; Christine abandons Rayona at Ida’s

climax  ·  Rayona rides at the rodeo in Havre and finds the courage and confidence to confront her family’s troubled history.

falling action  ·  Christine and Rayona are reconciled; Ida joins them at Dayton’s house for their first cordial dinner in years

themes  ·  Understanding different perspectives; the effect of past events on later generations; finding a true identity

motifs  ·  Pop culture; faith

symbols  ·  Christine’s videos; Ellen’s letter; braids

foreshadowing  ·  Foreshadowing plays a curious role in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. Because the narrative travels backward in time, we see a foreshadowing of events we have already read about.

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