Matthias Schubnell: On "Carriers of the Dream Wheel"

If ritual is one form of human expression which ensures man's link to tradition and the web of life, the oral tradition is another. In "Carriers of the Dream Wheel," Momaday explores the verbal dimension of American Indian cultures. An individual inherits his tribe's accumulated wealth of orally transmitted stories and songs, "the dream wheel," which shapes his existence and his perception of the world around him.

The first four lines of the poem establish the reciprocal relation between the dream wheel and its carriers. The imaginary realm of histories and myths, visions and songs, survives in their voices, and the keepers of the oral tradition have existence in and through it. It is a fundamental tenet of American Indian thought that the world came into existence through language, that nothing truly exists unless it has existence in language . This theory of creation is intimated in the lines "It [the Dream Wheel] encircles the First World, / This powerful wheel. / They shape their songs upon the wheel / And spin the names of the earth and sky, / The aboriginal names." The concluding six lines combine the ancient and contemporary aspects of the oral tradition: as long as this heritage is kept alive in the communal experience of American Indians, they will continue to know who they are and what their destiny is.


Title Matthias Schubnell: On "Carriers of the Dream Wheel" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Matthias Schubnell Criticism Target N. Scott Momaday
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 28 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication N. Scott Momaday: The Cultural and Literary Background
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