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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

  • Study Guide

Chapter 9

Summary Chapter 9

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.

Analysis: Chapter 9

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 them.