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This chapter marks the start of the second part of the
novel, and the narrative voice switches from Rayona to Christine
and from the present tense to the past.
Christine’s narrative begins immediately after the time
Christine expected the world to end. Christine regrets that she
missed a party while getting ready for the apocalypse that never
came and vows to never miss another party. Christine’s brother,
Lee, is the best-looking boy on the reservation, but Christine does
not consider herself attractive at all. She wonders if she and Lee
have the same father, but Aunt Ida never tells them. Ida does not
let Christine and Lee call her “mom” because she was never married.
Lee hangs around with Christine throughout grade school. Christine
is the toughest kid in her class, so the boys always send her out
on dares, which she accepts every time. One day, however, they dare
Christine to cross a natural bridge of stone that runs high over a
stream. She is almost across when she freezes with fear, paralyzed until
Lee comes and pulls her across. When the two walk down the ridge,
Christine makes a mental list of things she should never again dare
When Christine is a sophomore and Lee is thirteen, a
child of mixed heritage named Dayton Nickles moves to the reservation. Dayton
becomes Lee’s shadow, following him everywhere. By this time, Christine
is popular among her peers, and other girls in her class go to her
when they want to learn about making out. One day, Christine is
in her room and catches Dayton looking at her from the next room.
Taking this look as a sign of Dayton’s interest, Christine becomes
attracted to Dayton. During a powwow the next April, Christine takes
Dayton out to a field and tries to seduce him. They begin kissing,
but Dayton pulls away, telling Christine he thinks of her as a sister.
Christine is furious. Dayton and Christine have a falling-out, and
Lee is torn between them.
Lee is an excellent rider and becomes a rodeo star. However, Aunt
Ida refuses to allow Lee to make riding his profession. Christine
can tell that Ida has other plans for Lee, but she does not know what
they are. Some people claim that Lee will one day be regarded as
the Indian JFK because he is so smart and handsome.
After she graduates from high school Christine gets a
job with the tribal council and constantly goes out with boys. One
night Christine takes a road trip to North Dakota with Diamond,
a young man who already has two children, and they stay there for
two weeks. When Christine comes home, Ida is angry with her because
Diamond’s mother has complained to Ida that Christine is preventing her
from seeing her grandchildren. Christine moves out of Ida’s house
and goes to live with Pauline, Ida’s sister.
At the end of their high school careers, Lee and Dayton
become active in the militant “Red Power” movement. Christine disapproves
of Lee’s behavior and confronts him at a general store one day.
Christine goes to Aunt Ida to tell her that Lee is acting strange, but
Ida tells her that Lee is fine and knows what he is doing. Christine
leaves the house, feeling forgotten.
This new section grows out of the story Christine is telling
Rayona at the end of the previous chapter, and it is unclear whether
she is telling the story out loud or if the novel has begun to chart
Christine’s inner thoughts. Certainly, this section is more than
just Christine telling a lengthy anecdote, and just as Rayona has
done with her confession to Evelyn, Christine is now getting her
own story out into the open. Unlike her daughter, however, Christine
has the benefit of perspective, and this perspective is indicated
by the fact that she uses the past tense (whereas Rayona uses the
present tense). Christine, unlike Rayona, is distant enough from
her story that she has to look back on it rather than narrate it
as it occurs.
This chapter gives us a different perspective on the
same reality we have been shown through Rayona’s eyes. Whereas Rayona always
thinks of her mother as being attractive, we learn here that Christine
never thought herself pretty. Because we have two equally subjective
viewpoints, it is unclear whether Rayona’s admiration of her mother’s
beauty is truly deserved or just another one of Rayona’s idealizations.
Conversely, it is unclear whether Christine is correct in thinking
she is unattractive or if this perspective merely reflects her low
opinion of herself as a person.
Christine begins her narrative by situating us in her
era, the 1960s, and Dorris steeps the story
in the culture of the 1960s to help us follow
Christine’s story. Christine lingers on the idea of patriotism for
the first few paragraphs, mentioning how important “respect for
the red, white, and blue” was for people living on the reservation.
Later, Christine mentions many of the popular songs of her day,
which she hears on the radio program “The Teen Beat.” Because the
songs she mentions are still familiar tunes, these references allow
us to get some feel for the period. Christine also mentions some
well-known political events and trends, all of which plant Christine’s
story firmly in the 1960s without making
it feel unfamiliar to a contemporary reader.
Another interesting aspect of the beginning of Christine’s
story is the way it weaves into Rayona’s narrative and elaborates
on some of the details Rayona leaves unexplained. People who are
only minor characters in Rayona’s story, such as Lee and Dayton,
are suddenly more prominent and are given more depth. The origins
of several details Rayona mentions in passing are now fully explained,
such as the notebook Rayona finds in Christine’s room in which Christine tries
pairing her name with different boys’ last names. In this chapter
we get to see the origin of attitudes and trends that are part of Christine’s
life at the beginning of the novel. For example, Pauline’s warning
to Christine that she will wear herself out echoes the warnings
of Charlene, Christine’s friend from Seattle. Some of Christine’s behavior
seems baffling at the beginning of the novel, but by showing the
origins of some of her actions, Dorris brings us closer to understanding
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Yellow Raft in Blue Water!