We form memories through past experiences, both good and bad. As evident in E.B. White’s “Once more to the lake” and N. Scott Momaday’s “The way to a rainy mountain,” memories assist in preserving youth, as well as culture/traditions. White tends to focus on the theme of passing time, in regards to his past experiences, as well as his son’s, while Momaday takes a different perspective, arbitrating a theme regarding the impact of storytelling and the power of language as a representation of the world around him. These two perspectives work in relation to exemplify similar meanings, through the use of different thoughts and themes.
Throughout White’s story, he tends to switch from past to present, comparing his experiences with his father, to those with his son. As we follow the flow of the speaker’s mental process, a sense of dual existence is portrayed. This is made evident through the quote, “I began to sustain the illusion that he was I, and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father” (White 328). As the story continues to progress, the sense of dual existence forms the theme of passing time. As the ability to distinguish his experiences from those of his sons to his own disappears, the passage of time begins to gradually become more prominent. “It seemed to me, as I kept remembering all this, that those times and those summers had been infinitely precious and worth saving” (White 330). This statement portrays the emotion of the loss of an aspect of American culture. The aspect of escaping the troubles of urban life and dwelling in relaxation is being consumed by the inevitable passage of time.
Similar to White, Momaday focuses on the passing of time in relation to his grandmother’s passing, as well as the fading traditions of the Kiowa culture. Although, unlike White, Momaday has a more positive attitude towards the subject. While White views the passage of time as a negative idea, Momaday embraces the passage of time and the memories formed along the way. Throughout his story, Momaday follows the progression of the Kiowa culture, ensuring the experiences remain preserved. He attempts to portray the beauty of their lifestyle by appealing to our senses.
This becomes quite prevalent through his description of the beauty of Yellowstone, the darkness of the hills at Bighorn River, and the freedom of the mountains. The most important description though is that of Rainy Mountian, an important Kiowa landmark. “All things in the plain are isolate; there is no confusion or objects of the eye, but one hill or one tree, or one man. To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportions. Your imagination comes to life…” (Momaday 179). As the story progresses, similar imagery is continued, respectfully depicting the experiences of the Kiowa people.