An Analysis of the Value of Love in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

The Value of Love in “A Yellow Raft in Blue Water”

The Value of Love in “A Yellow Raft in Blue Water”

Everyday choices that we make are based on the values that we have learned throughout life. We learn these values from the most influential people in our lives, our parents. Our parents constantly teach us important life lessons, starting from day one. We watch, imitate, and dream to be just like them. We learn what is right and wrong from them, even though we try to cross the line from time to time.

This line represents our values. The novel, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, shows the values of one generation, and how they help create the values of the generations that follow. Rayona, Christine, and Ida, the three main characters, reveal similar values through the decisions they make. Though they all have their own unique values, the one value that they all display is love. This “love” is expressed as a fundamental or sometimes even an essential value.

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Rayona finds herself yearning for the love of her family; this includes her father, other family that she is not close with, but primarily her mother. Rayona was born into a dysfunctional family. Her mother, Christine, is always in and out of the hospital due to her heavy use of alcohol, “In the last year mom has become a regular at Indian Health Service…she wakes wheezing from too much party or from passing out on top of the covers and the next thing she’s back in the ward for tests” (p 8).

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This causes Rayona to be the one who takes care of Christine, as if the roles were reversed. As for her father, he too is constantly in and out of her life. “[Rayona) I have tried things on Dad too…tears, good grades, writing letters, getting him presents…one time [Rayona] even hung around on the route he was delivering” (p 9). Her father seems to never put enough effort into trying to be with her. He also does not put out the “good husband” image, he is constantly cheating on her mother, but Christine won’t divorce him. Instead, she stays out late partying and drinking. Rayona has never really felt loved by either one of her parents, and it wasn’t until she ran away and found Sky and Evelyn that she finally did feel loved.” [Rayona) I’ll tell you the truth.’ ‘You don’t have to,’ [Evelyn) says. ‘Sometimes it’s better to leave things be… “[Rayona] Why are you being so nice’…'[Evelyn) Don’t ask me that,’ [Evelyn) finally says in her clean voice… So I (Rayona, tell her” (p 104). Rayona told Evelyn the “truth” about her real identity because she felt close to Evelyn. It is almost like Rayona tries to find a second mother through Evelyn. Evelyn really loves and cares for Rayona, and she proves this continuously throughout the book. For instance, while at the rodeo, Evelyn sticks up for Rayona when Father Tom approaches her, “… [Father Tom) knows [Evelyn) knows, and she knows he does… Father Tom shrinks into himself… There’s nothing for him to do but fade into the crowd” (p 126). It was this same value of love that bound Rayona to the letter that she found on the ground at Bearpaw Lake. “This scrap of paper in my hand makes me feel poor in a way like I just heard of rich… What kind of person would throw it away…I can’t drop that letter in to the mix with soggy plastic bags and year-old candy wrappers” (p 81). When Rayona read the letter she could feel the love of each word, and because she never felt this kind of love from either one of her parents, this made her feel “poor”. She felt as though the person who discarded the letter was taking this love for granted, a love that Rayona desired. Rayona kept the letter because the love was too priceless to become trash, but later into the story she discards the letter in exchange for her mothers sign of affection; a sliver turtle ring.

Christine, like Rayona, also values love. It actually turns out that Christine is not as heartless as Rayona portrayed her to be. Christine has feelings; she just shows her affection in a different approach. For instance, before Christine leaves Seattle she wants to get Rayona something to remind her about her mom. So she goes to the video store and gets a couple of movies, “… but there was nothing of mine ! (Christine) could give her… Then it came to me…we pulled into the Village Video Club” (p 248). This was Christine’s way of showing Rayona that she loved her. However, Christine too never felt loved by her mother, Aunt Ida. In fact, Christine thought she was more of a burden to Aunt Ida. “I never wanted you!’ Aunt Ida shouted at me. ‘I had no choice.’ A cry broke from me [Christine], halfway between outrage and hurt. ‘You made that clear,’ I yelled back. ‘You don’t have to tell me’ (p 271). Christine was deprived of love from her mother, so she looked for love in other places. She ended up sleeping around for attention, to feel as though she was cared about. Christine’s search for love started at an early age, “What I lacked in looks I made up in other ways, and a boy had a good time on a date with me…I was the expert” (p 149). Later in life Christine met Elgin, and her search for love came to a halt. Elgin was the first man she ever loved. She loved him so deeply, that she believed anything he said, “I told myself Elgin was my change of luck, and believed every promise he made. I even believed his guarantee could bring my brother back in one piece” (p 181). However, Elgin broke the love that Christine had for him when he cheated on her with another woman. Christine was hurt very deeply by this and it made her question Elgin’s love for her. The question of whether she was ever loved all along only made her long for love even more. This causes her to create an extreme party life and late night drinking binges, which only puts her into the hospital. Since Christine lacked love from others, it was hard for her to give it to the one who needed it the most, Rayona.

The strong need for love that Christine and Rayona hold throughout the book is traced all the way back to Aunt Ida and her longing for love. Aunt Ida grew up to soon. She resents her childhood and states this in the beginning of her story, “If I were to live my life differently, I would start with the word NO” (p297). Her family life consisted of taking care of her dying mother, controlling her abusive father, and even caring for a baby that did not belong to her. Aunt Ida was stripped of her childhood, and because of this she became distant and did not learn the real way to love a family. “I’m a woman who’s lived for fifty-seven years and worn resentment like a medicine charm for forty” (p 297). At first Aunt Ida is willing to keep the baby, “You (Clara] can’t give her away…I won’t let you” (p 318). Ida is prepared to take on the burden of having a child at an early age. As Christine was growing up, you could see the strong feelings for Christine that Ida had, “It was beyond me how [Clara) could have cared so little about Christine, how she could have given her away with such a lack of regret” (p 353). As time went on, conversely, she resented her father and her Aunt Clara for leaving her with their responsibility of taking care of Christine. Aunt Ida partly blamed Christine for being shoved into adulthood and therefore never showed Christine the love that she felt for her. And since Aunt Ida denied Christine this love she never showed her love for Rayona.

The lack of love displayed in this book helped contribute to each of the character’s strong value of love. This vicious cycle that started with Aunt Ida affected each generation after her. Since Christine didn’t receive love from Ida, Christine didn’t allow herself to give her love to Rayona. Rayona is missing the essential love from the family that she needs in her life right now. Seeing as the characters were not shown the love that they needed, they did not pass that feeling down to their children. And so the importance and longing for love flowed from Aunt Ida, down to Christine, and finally to Rayona, showing us all how important love is in every family. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water has shown how lessons taught in life are passed down to those below, even the lessons that are skipped over.

Works Cited

Dorris, Michael. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. New York: Warner Books, 1988

Cite this page

An Analysis of the Value of Love in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. (2022, Apr 06). Retrieved from

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