Scott Momaday’s “The Way to Rainy Mountain” and Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Being Country” are two the texts to be compared. Though they share similarities, they too are quite different. They both share similar topics, in that they are two stories of cultures, but written from different perspectives of their cultures. Momaday is from the Kiowas tribe of the plains of Oklahoma, and Mason from a farm in Mayfield, Kentucky. Both exhibit some comparisons, but mostly contrasts throughout their writing. Momaday’s American Indian heritage dates back to the 1880’s when his grandmother was born, where Mason’s dairy farm heritage takes place starting when she was born in 1940. I found both to be stories of each of the author’s lives and a sort of survival the each had to endure.
In “The Way to Rainy Mountain”, Scott Momaday tries to reunite himself with his Kiowa heritage by embarking on a journey to Rainy Mountain in Oklahoma to visit his grandmother’s grave. He begins his essay with a detailed and descriptive review of how Rainy Mountain engages the reader. “Great green and yellow grasshoppers are everywhere in the tall grass, popping up like corn to sting the flesh…” (118) This sentence is a great example of his gifted ability to be descriptive. Momaday then paints the reader a history lesson when he mentions, “…the Kiowas were living the last great moment of their history. For more than a hundred years they had controlled the open range…In alliance with the Camanches, they had ruled the whole southern Plains” (119).
Though Momaday’s grandmother, Aho, lived out her long life in the Rainy Mountains, Momaday stated, “I want to see in the reality what she had seen more perfectly in the mind’s eye, and traveled fifteen hundred miles to begin my pilgrimage” (119). He is telling me that he is a proud American Indian and wants to try and keep some of his grandmothers life, heritage, and spirit alive in his mind. After Aho died, Momaday reflects on how “the walls have closed in upon my grandmother’s house” (122). He sees Rainer Mountain in a different light and, I believe, a better view of some of his heritage as well. Momaday shows contentment in his work. Mason, on the other hand, shows more resentment in hers.
Bobby Ann Mason begins by describing the simplicity of how her family lives. She begins this writing from when she was eleven years old. Her mom and Granny were very dedicated farm women. They took care of all of the food, clothing and just about anything else needed for them to run a household. As Mason shows, they prove to be very resourceful and are capable of making the most out of what they have available.
On a typical day of food preparation by Mason’s mom and Granny, Mason screams “Can’t y’all talk about anything but food? There was a shocked silence. ‘Well, what else is there”? Granny asked. Granny didn’t question a women’s duties, but I did. I wanted to be somebody, maybe an airline stewardess. Also, I had been listening to the radio. I had notions” (106). She was beginning to develop her independence. Mason thought she would strive to better herself to not have to ‘suffer’ her mother’s fate. She almost seems to be developing anxiety and depression over food, though her family always seems to get by with plenty. “I think this dependence on nature was at the core of my rebellion. I hated the constant sense of helplessness before vast forces, the continuous threat of failure…I especially hated women’s part in the dependence” (106). She talks of her family’s lack of money and how she has visions of prosperity. “My mother allowed me to get spoiled. She never even tried to teach me to cook. ‘You didn’t want to learn’ she says now. ‘You were a lady of leisure, and you didn’t want to help. You had your nose in a book”. (106) Though she never considered herself to be poor, there were many things they didn’t have. Their wardrobes consisted of three sets. There were clothes for school, every day, and Sunday clothes. Never to use one set for any unintended use. Mama wouldn’t have that.
Her mom preferred the outdoor life and was a natural cook. Everything they needed to prepare the most complete meals were provided from the farm with the exception of flour, sugar, and salt. She didn’t miss a lick. Every detail was taken care of by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Mama. They did venture into town on occasion, where Mason was exposed to some of the highlights of her dreams. Things like big band music, ladies stores, banks, drug stores, and the poolroom that blew “intoxicating smell of hamburgers in your face”. (107) “But hamburgers in town were better. They were greasier, and were wrapped in waxed paper packages”. (108) Living in the country, Mason didn’t have luxuries like those found in town. Things like peppermint ice cream or even more simple things that you and I wouldn’t take notice of. “They served store bought food-coconuts, pineapples, and Vienna sausages”. (108) None of which you would find on most any farm in Kentucky.
Though these two writings share similarities like that of having strong family heritage, each writer presents themselves differently. Momaday is trying to get better in touch with his Indian heritage by looking back on his grandmother. He drew on her stories and experiences for a better understanding. Mason utilizes her family and its heritage towards developing her own plans. She sees that, though she is not really lacking anything fundamentally, she still yearns for more out of life and seems destined to get it.
Both authors do an exceptional job describing their heritages. Coming from very different times could pose the reader with somewhat of a challenge when thinking about comparisons. Both handle that task well. They both share the simplicity of the land and having to live off of it. There contrast is how they view their heritage and how they feel about it. Momaday embraces his while Mason wants nothing to do with hers.
Courtney from Study Moose
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