A Yellow Raft in Blue Water Symbolism

Father Tom parts ways with Rayona after an awkward exchange so she can get on a train to Seattle: “He doesn’t see me toss his medallion onto the track to be ground into plastic dust” (64). Father Tom gifts her the medallion to let people know where she came from. Rayona destroys the medallion as soon as he is gone because not only did he commit sexual misconduct on her, but it also symbolizes her Native American identity in which she did not want to be reminded of.

When she lived at was the reservation, she was notoriously discriminated by other Natives including her own blood cousins for being biracial: half Native American, half Black. Her schoolmates would talk and laugh behind her back while her cousin, Kennedy “Foxy” Cree, would tell her to go back to Africa and call her racial slurs. Rayona inherits her Native American roots from her mother who was also the reason for being stuck on the reservation as her mother abandons her there.

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She was neglected by both the reservation and her mother, wanting to escape from her whole situation. Traumatized by her awful experiences, Rayona attempts to get rid of these bad memories of the mistreatment from the reservation and her mother by physically breaking the beaded medallion, removing the Native American in her in the process. With her mind clear of these thoughts, she is able to continue to find her own identity as she does not return home and explore the world.

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Rayona finds Ellen’s discarded letter from her parents when picking up litter for Bearpaw Lake and stashes it into her pocket to keep for herself: “This scrap of paper in my hand makes me feel poor in a way like I just heard of rich. Jealous. What kind of person would throw it away?” (81) Rayona cherishes the letter because it fulfills her fantasy of a perfect family where she would have loving and caring parents, a huge house with a lawn, and even a pet just like Ellen. It is a way for her to escape the sad reality which is the opposite of Ellen’s and help her make it through tough times. Rayona feels abandoned by her parents, forcing her to live by herself in the world. She brings up memories of Christine, her mom, in her head and incorporates them into imaginations such as running off into the waterfall together. Although Rayona wishes for these things, reading the letter makes her feel “poor”, meaning that she accepts the fact that her wish will probably not become true and she would be stuck with her neglectful family. Throughout her story, she never throws the letter away until the end of Christine’s story. After spending some quality time with Christine and catching up, Rayona realizes that her mom is all she needs and comes to accept her. No longer needing to fantasize about a perfect family as she has Christine, the letter is crushed up and thrown away at a restaurant that they dined at.

Although I am not as bold or wild as Christine nor would I make similar life choices as her, we both share the same thoughts and insecurities. In Christine’s opening statements, she expresses “I had to find my own way and I started out in the hole, the bastard daughter of a woman who wouldn’t even admit she was my mother and the fat sister of the prettiest boy that ever lived” (141). Christine does not feel accepted by her mom or society in general because she feels like she lacks in attractive appeal and she tries to make up for it by changing herself with makeup and a new wardrobe. When reading this, I realized that I do the exact same thing to such as wearing foundation almost every day to hide imperfections and go to online shops to look for new potential outfits. I am not too worried about what others think about me too much but I guess I subconsciously do think about when making these choices and personally do think that I am ugly. Just like Christine and Ida, I have a rough time trying to establish a relationship with my mother. It is really hard for me to communicate with my mom because everytime I do, I feel like she is always trying to put me down and that she likes my older brother more than me. So I just do not talk to her anymore these days. It is similar to how Christine has a hard time talking to Ida and is jealous of her younger brother, Lee, since she thinks that Ida is giving all her affection to him. Christine and I, despite our differences, are very self-conscious about ourselves and seek to overcome it.

Christine is still deeply hurt and carries resentment because Aunt Ida was a bad mother towards her even after all these years. Rayona was the most important thing in the world to her and she explains why she cannot have another child: “If I had a boy I’d have to name him Lee, and if he was pretty, if I was like Aunt Ida, Rayona would be out in the cold. I couldn’t take that chance” (232). Christine did not what Rayona to experience what she had to go through because she is aware that Rayona would be neglected, reflecting on past memories of her childhood with Ida. Christine then clarifies how she raises Rayona: “I wanted to go back and do Aunt Ida’s part better, mostly I did” (233). She takes pride in raising Rayona because she believes that she was a better parent than her actual mom. Once Rayona was born, Christine made sure to never be like Ida so Rayona would not become like her and would have a better life. She also mentions Rayona’s feelings about her dad, Elgin: “It was her feelings for Elgin that brought the worst in me… Elgin did treat me that way, and I endured it too” (232). She empathizes with her daughter and is very angry because Elgin is doing the same thing to Rayona as what Ida did to Christine, failing to be there for her. Christine bases all of her life and parenting decisions in an attempt to get back at Ida for what she has done to her, holding bitterness inside.

At the end, there is a flashback of when the end of the world was predicted and Ida wakes up at two in the morning to see that nothing happened. She goes to braid a young Christine’s hair in the dark. A braid is mentioned in all of the women’s perspectives. In Rayona’s and Christine’s stories, Christine is braiding Rayona’s hair when they were in the Native American hospital. The braid consists of three strands of hair which symbolizes their individual stories. Like how waves are woven together, all of their stories overlap and combine into one whole greater story. The three women struggled with similar life choices and also felt as if they were abandoned by their families. Without knowing each perspective, so many details such as the characters’ motives would be left out and not understood, making the story completely different. For example, Rayona hears Christine tell Elgin to go back to his “little black girl” who she thinks refers to her, but, in actuality, Christine said “little fat girl”, referring to a girl at a bar who Christine assumes Elgin cheated with. In Christine’s case, she went her entire life believing that Ida never loved her and preferred Lee over her which is not true at all because, in Ida’s story, she says she loved both of them equally. There are many twists and turns built on misconceptions as the story progresses through each generation. Their stories complement each other to portray a bigger picture in that family would always be there no matter what happens or how one may perceive it.

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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water Symbolism. (2022, Jan 28). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-yellow-raft-in-blue-water-symbolism-essay

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