The main protagonist of House Made of Dawn, Abel is a young man who has just returned from armed service in World War II. Details of his most recent past are sparse, except for one account that holds him as being completely fearless and reckless. Abel's recklessness is a symptom of the disillusionment he feels as an American Indian faced with the jarring disparity between reservation life and the lifestyle of the modern American city. One of the most climactic moments in the novel is Abel's largely unexplained murder of the albino. Some characters, such as Father Olguin, see Abel's actions as instinctual. Olguin believes Abel, under the influence of peyote, misinterpreted the albino as some other being that was pure evil. Faced with such a nemesis, it was only natural and instinctual that Abel would kill the albino.

Years later, when Abel is relocated to Los Angeles, Ben observes a similar disconnection in Abel's relations with the rest of society. The reserve that Angela had seen in Abel has grown into a more disillusioned quietness after several years in prison. The Abel we see in Los Angeles is wary and out of his element, rarely allowing others a glimpse into his thoughts. When he finally gives up, losing his job and drinking more and more heavily until it consumes his life, he becomes dissipated and self-loathing. It is in this state that Abel lashes out drunkenly at the Priest of the Sun, very much in the fashion of his youth at Walatowa. Yet Abel's decline in Los Angeles does not hurt anyone other than himself, as he returns to Ben's apartment nearly beaten to death. When Abel returns to Walatowa and fulfills the obligation to his dying grandfather, he is transformed. After his own personal brush with death he returns home only to facilitate the passage of the last member of his family into the afterlife. Abel is now the father figure of his family—in reality, the only one remaining—and his act of participating in the ceremonial run at dawn, as his grandfather had once done in his youth, is an act that signifies a transfer of roles from generation to generation.