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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

Michael Dorris

Chapter 10

Chapter 9

Chapter 10, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 10

The Vietnam War has begun, and Christine asks Dayton what his draft classification is. Dayton has been classified a “4-A,” which means that he cannot be drafted because his father is dead and he is the only son left to his mother. Christine asks Lee what he plans to do after his two years in the military, but he informs her he is not going to enlist, and that he will dodge the draft if he has to. Christine thinks Lee is being a coward and the two get into an argument. The argument ends when Christine slaps Lee across the face.

People wonder whether or not Lee will enlist. Christine gets into an argument about it with Aunt Ida, who supports Lee. One day Christine sees a poster publicizing the tribal elections and knows that Lee will never be elected if he does not join the army, which she explains to Dayton. Dayton and Lee had made plans about Lee eventually running for election to the council, and Dayton recognizes that Christine is right. As a draft-dodger, Lee would never be elected. Dayton commits himself to persuading Lee to enlist.

Lee and Dayton disappear for a few weeks but return the night of the mission’s Labor Day bazaar. Lee has cut his hair and enlisted, and he starts hanging around with a new group of friends. Soon Dayton cuts his hair as well, though he clings to his 4-A classification. Christine begins to find the reservation too confining, so she decides to join an employment program in Seattle. She bids a civil farewell to Ida and has a rather drawn-out goodbye with Lee. Lee ships out for boot camp soon after.

Christine makes plenty of new friends in Seattle but her job bores her. She frequently switches jobs and apartments, but never really finds anything she likes. Christine receives two pieces of mail from Lee: a postcard from Hawaii and then a letter from Vietnam. Several months later she gets a letter from Dayton. Lee has been listed as MIA—missing in action. Christine is distraught and dreads getting any more letters.

That night, feeling anxious about Lee, Christine stops in a bar for a drink. It takes a minute for her to realize that everyone in the bar is black. A man in uniform comes over and buys Christine a drink. His name is Corporal Elgin A. Taylor. Christine tells Elgin about Lee, and he puts his arm around her and tells her not to worry. The two go back to Elgin’s hotel room together. Being with Elgin is a whole new experience for Christine, and the next morning she asks him never to leave her. He promises that he will not.

Analysis: Chapter 10

The deference for the “red, white, and blue” Christine mentions in the previous chapter makes another appearance here. Only when we keep in mind the patriotism that pervades Christine’s reservation can we properly understand the ramifications of Lee’s desire to dodge the draft. Indeed, after Christine confronts Lee, and the opinions of people on the reservation are split, we see that Lee’s enemies claim that he will dodge and his friends claim that he will not. This split gives us a fairly explicit indication that avoiding the military would be poorly received by the entire reservation.

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