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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

Michael Dorris

Chapter 11

Chapter 10

Chapter 12

Summary: Chapter 11

Christine is a changed woman after her encounter with Elgin. She waits impatiently for Elgin’s discharge from the military. When that day comes, Elgin comes home late but Christine is just as glad to see him. They spend a passionate few weeks in Tacoma, living off of Elgin’s savings and spending all of their time together. Christine decides she wants a child and stops using birth control. One day, she and Elgin make love in Point Defiance Park and Christine immediately knows she is pregnant. She tells Elgin and he proposes to her.

Elgin’s money begins to run low, so he gets a job with the post office. Christine stops drinking and smoking and starts going to bed early. She goes back to her job on an assembly line making black boxes for airplanes. Christine is starting to look quite pregnant, and she wonders when she and Elgin will get married. They decide to have their wedding ceremony at a courthouse and then go to a club afterward. Everyone at the club is enthusiastic when they find out Elgin and Christine are newlyweds. On the walk home, Christine can feel Elgin drawing away from her, but her fears are allayed when he carries her the last two blocks to their hotel.

Christine writes a letter to Aunt Ida to tell her about the marriage but gets no reply. Elgin starts coming home later and later. When Christine yells at Elgin and accuses him of seeing someone else, she suddenly realizes that she sounds just like a woman that one of her former boyfriends deserted to date her. Elgin disappears for three days. When he returns, Christine does not ask where he has been. One morning, a week past her due date, Christine receives a letter from Dayton stating that Lee is dead. Christine’s water breaks and she takes a taxi to the hospital, putting Dayton’s letter in the back of her mind.

Elgin does not show up at the hospital. Christine has some difficulty dealing with the discomfort of childbirth but makes it through. She was planning to name the baby Raymond, but the baby is a girl. When Elgin shows up, he wants to name the baby Diane after his mother, but Christine comes up with “Rayona.” Rayona’s middle name becomes Diane. Christine refuses to let the nurses put Rayona in a nursery, so they give her a private room.

Things are good between Elgin and Christine after Rayona is born, but soon Elgin again begins to stay out later and later. When Rayona is nine months old, Christine goes back to work and finds a place of her own. After that, Elgin calls from time to time, claiming he wants to start over. Christine listens to him at times, and at other times does not.

Analysis: Chapter 11

Christine is deliriously happy to find someone who appreciates and loves her, and at first her relationship with Elgin overwhelms even the affection she has known on the reservation. Her new identity as Elgin’s girlfriend gives Christine a place and a kind of acceptance she has never felt before. In this regard, Christine’s relationship with Elgin is analogous to Rayona’s relationship with Father Tom. In both cases, an isolated and lonely individual finds someone willing to shower attention on her. However, both Rayona and Christine end up having negative experiences with the men they come to trust. The relationship between Rayona and Father Tom and the relationship between Christine and Elgin clearly have their differences, in terms of the level of emotion and commitment involved, the outcome, and the extent to which each party is invested in the relationship. However, both relationships are part of the same search, in which a young woman who can no longer turn to her family tries to find other people to love and accept her.

Christine decides she wants to augment the identity that Elgin provides her by becoming a mother, and every time her relationship with Elgin deepens, Christine temporarily finds satisfaction in her life. Once Christine becomes pregnant and betrothed to Elgin, she is content to go back to one of the jobs she had previously thought was too boring. Her menial job, which was previously unbearably tedious, is now suffused with greater meaning because it represents a means to support her child. Just like Rayona, however, Christine can believe in her fictionalized life only if other people do the same. On the evening of her wedding, Christine enjoys telling all the people at the club that she and Elgin are newly married. Just as Rayona finds an identity by getting Sky and Evelyn to believe in her fictional life, Christine reaffirms her identity as a wife and mother-to-be by publicly proclaiming her marriage. Each believes that having others know about her life, whether real or fictional, validates her identity.

Christine makes a major leap in understanding herself after Elgin begins repeatedly staying out late at night, and her rosy view of her life gives way to unflattering comparisons to women she has known in the past. Feeling abandoned by Elgin, Christine suddenly realizes how similar she is to the nagging wives of men with whom she used to have affairs, women whom she always disparaged. Suddenly seeing things from the viewpoint of these lonely wives makes Christine reevaluate herself and reinforces her suspicion that Elgin is cheating on her. Christine begins trying to keep Elgin close to her and simultaneously gains perspective on the somewhat promiscuous lifestyle she had been leading. This sudden self-awareness demonstrates how Christine has changed in only a few months. Becoming pregnant has made her cautious, thoughtful, and unusually responsible and has made her begin looking at herself in a new light.

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