Michael Dorris, the author of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, coming from a Native American background, most likely considered this while choosing the title for this bestseller.
A skilled storyteller, Dorris effectively uses literary techniques associated with oral tradition in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water: strong narrative voice, vivid imagery, figurative language, and repetition of key scenes.
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michale Dorris
Another storytelling technique that Dorris relies on in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water is repetition. Several events are narrated by each of the women, but each person’s version is slightly different. Readers know from the first paragraph, for example, that Christine has been hospitalized, but not until the middle section of the novel is the seriousness of her illness revealed. Bored as a fifteen-year-old might be while sitting in uncomfortable clothes for the duration of visiting hours, Rayona is annoyed that her mother wants to play cards and becomes irritated when she sees her mother cheat at solitaire. There seems to be no reasonable justification for the mother’s behavior until Christine relates this same scene: just before Rayona arrives at the hospital, Christine has learned that her illness is terminal. She wants to play cards to hide her distress from her daughter, and the liveliness that seems to be a sure sign of faked illness to Rayona is clearly a mother’s attempt at bravado when she feels that her world, as well as her body, are falling apart. Christine feels her mother does not understand nor empathize with her situation. But Ida’s section reveals the opposite: she is allowing her daughter the dignity of feeling as if she is in control for as long as possible. As in stories that are told aloud, each time a scene is repeated in this novel, the narrative pattern is slightly, significantly altered. The result is not boredom for the reader or a sense of carelessness on the part of the writer, but a gradually increasing awareness that each of us sees only one part of the stories we inhabit.