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In my house, Christ was always being
born or rising from the dead.
See Important Quotations Explained
In my house, Christ was always being
born or rising from the dead.
Unlike Christine, Lee is a very fussy child. Christine
is glad to be Lee’s “little mother” and constantly takes care of
him. Father Hurlburt becomes the head of the mission and becomes
too busy to keep up his Thursday meetings with Ida. Instead, Ida
begins to use Thursdays as time to spend with her children. The
children naturally have questions about their identity, but Ida
declines to give them any information. By this time, Willard Pretty
Dog is married to one of the nurses who cared for him in the hospital.
Every once in a while, Christine calls Ida “mother” to get on her
nerves, but Ida never responds until Christine uses “Aunt Ida.”
Ida speaks Indian to her children, but they use English with each
other and while they watch television. Ida has no preferences for
one child over the other, and each of them requires a different
kind of attention.
Christine becomes very immersed in her Catholic faith.
Her favorite saints are the ones that suffered bloody martyrdoms. Although
Ida is worried, Pauline believes that Christine’s faith is unconscious
reparation for the circumstances of her birth. Christine’s devout
nature is a contrast to her daring side, which comes out when she
is around other children, especially Lee. When Lee tells Ida some
of the brave things that Christine has done, Ida tries to make Lee
promise not to try to copy her. Lee is not nearly so bold; in fact, he
is rather timid.
One day Christine comes home a quiet and changed girl,
and Lee brags to Ida that Christine was scared and that he saved
her. After this incident, Lee finds new confidence while Christine
looks at the world with new apprehension. Christine constantly expresses
fear that she is going to hell. Worried, Ida consults Father Hurlburt,
who suspects that Christine’s anxiety may have something to do with
a letter that people say the Virgin Mary herself gave to a young
girl in Portugal. The letter is supposed to be opened at the turn
of the New Year and is expected to tell one of two futures: either
all of Russia will convert or the world will end. Father Hurlburt
says the children in Christine’s class are taking the message too
Ida tries to talk to Christine about the letter, but
Christine is set in her faith. Ida humors her, making a list of
her sins and promising to stay home on New Year’s Eve. Ida spends
the alleged last day of the world with Christine. Lee says he is
very skeptical about Christine’s faith, and Ida does not try to
explain to him why Christine feels the need for mystery. That afternoon,
Christine spends a lot of time trying to make Ida look nice, and
when she is finished, Ida is impressed. Ida gazes into Christine’s
mirror, astonished. The moment is ruined, however, by Lee’s mocking
laugh. As she admits that nothing is going to happen, Christine
tells Lee, “You win.”
At dinner, Lee, feeling his point has been made, tries
to cheer up Christine. Lee decides he wants to stay up until midnight
to prove Christine wrong. In response, Christine shuts herself up
in her room and turns on the radio. Late that night, Father Hurlburt
comes over to Ida’s, and he and Ida go out onto the roof. Father
Hurlburt asks if Christine had a bad night, and Ida tells him that
she did. In the dark, Ida begins to braid her hair.
Ida’s comment, early in this chapter, that “[i]n my house,
Christ was always being born or rising from the dead” continues
the idea of death and resurrection from earlier in the novel. Ida
means this idea literally, describing a religious calendar she has
just brought home, but the phrase also reflects the fact that A
Yellow Raft in Blue Water is partly a story about how Rayona
resurrects the spirit and values that had been denied the women
in the generations before hers. Ida is disillusioned at the age
of fifteen when Clara and her father betray her, and Christine experiences
disillusionment at the same age when the world does not end as she
expects it to. Rayona is also fifteen years old during her portion
of the novel, and often feels betrayed or abandoned, but she does
not enter this cycle of despair. After two generations of disillusionment,
Rayona is the first woman to truly find her place within her family.
Thus, Rayona represents another type of rebirth—that of the woman
in her family.
The strange and complicated genealogy of Ida’s family
reveals itself in the behavior of many members of her immediate
family. Although Christine and Lee are raised as brother and sister,
Christine acts like a member of an older generation, which, as Ida’s
half-sister and cousin, she technically is. This difference can
be seen in the way they behave—whereas Lee is childish and requires
much attention, the young Christine is poised and confident. Even
when they are older, Christine is mature enough to exercise some
control over Lee’s life. Even though Christine and Lee live their
lives under the incorrect assumption that they are brother and sister,
they unconsciously act out the truth through their very different
personalities and actions. Dorris places so much importance on personal
background and family history that these elements affect the novel’s characters
even when the characters are not aware of their histories.
Most of this final chapter is concerned with Christine’s
loss of faith, which we have already seen through Christine’s point
of view earlier in the novel. Of all the scenes in the novel that
are told from multiple points of view, this is the scene with the
least amount of misunderstanding. For once, Christine and Ida seem
to be operating on the same wavelength. When Christine tries to
make Ida look nice for the apocalypse, both women are impressed
by how beautiful Ida looks afterward. When Lee shatters this moment
of connection with his mocking laugh, both Ida and Christine are
angry with him. Interestingly, each woman is indignant on the part
of the other, as Christine thinks Ida’s feelings are hurt and Ida
thinks Christine’s feelings are hurt. This mutual concern is rare
in the context of the numerous misunderstandings in the novel, and
shows how close Christine and Ida are at this moment.
Dorris ends the novel with a return to the image of braiding
to give us a final, lingering image of how his fractured narrative
structure leads to a whole. Like a braid, the novel takes three
different strands of narrative and weaves them together to create
an overarching story that is greater than the sum of the individual
components. Each story contributes differently to the themes of
the novel, but no single narrative operates independently of the
others. Through the three different points of view, many aspects
of the novel’s events, characters, and characters’ motivations are
revealed that would remain hidden if the story were told from only
one of these three perspectives. Thus, we have an opportunity to
hear the whole story, something none of the characters in the novel
has been able to do fully.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Yellow Raft in Blue Water!