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
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.