Kenneth C. Mason: On "The Burning"

"The Burning". . . is an elegy for the heroic age of the Indian cultures. The poem is a conceit: the apocalyptic destructiveness of the fire is a very apt metaphor for the ravaging advent of the white man ("always alien and alike"). The poem catches with great success the tragic innocence of the Indians as they learn of the approaching disaster, watch for its arrival, and finally succumb to the inexorable will of its drive. What is most striking about the poem is the ease and naturalness with which Momaday sustains the conceit. The imagery is stark and suggestive, and the detail precise and telling. The final lines are extremely moving in their desperate inevitability: "And in the foreground the fields were fixed in fire / And the flames flowered in our flesh." "The Burning" is a new and significant direction for Momaday in his treatment of native materials. It is also a fine attempt at a mature summation of the themes he has treated before.


Title Kenneth C. Mason: On "The Burning" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Kenneth C. Mason Criticism Target N. Scott Momaday
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 28 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "Beautyway: The Poetry of N. Scott Momaday"
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