A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water consists of three distinct narratives. What effect does this structure have? Why does Dorris choose to present certain scenes in more than one narrative?
2. The main characters of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water are all looking for a place to belong. How do Rayona’s travels affect her and what conclusions does she come up with?
3. In the novel, the events of the past affect the lives of characters who are too young to know these events have occurred. In what ways do these family secrets affect the different characters of the novel? Are these effects lessened or amplified by the fact that they are kept secret?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Dorris uses the images of water and rain frequently in his text. Discuss the significance of these images with relation to the themes and structure of the novel.
2. Religion plays a major role in the novel and appears in a variety of different ways. Discuss the various appearances of religion and its significance to the text. What is the difference between Father Hurlburt and Father Tom? Do characters have to be affiliated with the church to be religious?
3. Each narrator makes references to the popular culture of her time. What is the effect of such references within the novel? Be sure to consider elements of culture that are not necessarily linked to a specific era or point in time.
4. By presenting three different narratives in his novel, Dorris highlights the fact that all stories are inherently subjective. In what ways does this subjectivity come across in each of these narratives? Is the narrator conscious of it? Is there a definite right or wrong viewpoint in this novel?
5. How do Christine and Rayona use images of planes and flying in their narratives? What is the significance of these images? Do such images come up in Ida’s story?
6. Discuss the role of escapism in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. How does each character escape his or her reality? What is the result?
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