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Ceremony

Leslie Marmon Silko

Section 10

Section 9

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Tayo follows the woman as she gathers plants and explains their uses to him. He watches the cattle with a bull Robert saved from the rodeo. Tayo and the woman spend the summer together. She gathers all of the plants she needs except for one, which is not ready yet. She shows it to Tayo so he can gather it for her in case she is not there any more when it is ready. At the end of the summer, Robert comes by and warns Tayo that Emo has been spreading rumors about Tayo being crazy and that the people are concerned. Tayo does not follow his suggestion to go back home. Tayo and the woman talk about the destruction and the ceremony he is performing in order to stop it. They visit an old abandoned sacred place in the area. Then she tells him that Emo and the white police are coming after him to take him back to the hospital. She tells him that if he hides for long enough the white police will give up, but Emo will be a different story. She has to leave, and Tayo helps her to pack.

Tayo goes from one hiding place to the next, evading the men who are after him. As she predicted, the whites soon give up. Tayo tries to hitchhike a ride and is picked up by Leroy and Harley. Tayo thinks they have come through for him as friends; it is almost too late when he realizes that they are only capturing him for Emo. Tayo runs off again to an abandoned uranium mine in the hills. There, he notices the patterns left from mining the uranium, and he realizes that he has come to the last station in the ceremony. If he can complete that night, the ceremony will be complete.

Soon, Emo arrives in a car with Pinkie and Leroy. Tayo watches from a hiding place as they make a bonfire and beat the car; part of the ceremony of destruction. Then they pull Harley from the trunk. Emo is punishing him for having let Tayo go and is trying to get Tayo back by torturing his friend. Tayo almost runs out to kill Emo, when a great gust of wind builds up the fire and sends Leroy and Pinkie to the ground, bringing Tayo back to his senses. Finally, the men put Harley back into the trunk and leave.

Tayo walks back home, stopping to gather and to replant the seeds that the woman needs. In the story of Hummingbird and Fly, they give Buzzard the tobacco; Buzzard purifies the town, and the rain returns. The Corn woman tells them to remember how difficult it is to fix things, so that they will be more careful next time.

Tayo sits in the kiva with Ku'oosh and the other elders and tells them the story of his ceremony. They question him, especially asking about the woman. Then they sing and chant that he has seen A'moo'ooh, the spirit of the she-elk, and that they will be blessed again. They perform a ceremony on Tayo, so that at last

"Every evil which entangled him was cut to pieces."

Harley and Leroy are found dead in a ditch and are buried with full military honors. Auntie finally treats Tayo like a full member of the family. When they hear that Emo has killed Pinkie, old Grandma says, "It seems like I already heard these stories before—only thing is, the names sound different.

A poem tells how the witchery is dead for now, and the novel ends with a short poem alone on the last page:

"Sunrise, accept this offering, Sunrise."

Analysis

Ts'eh's status as a symbolic, mythical creature is confirmed, as she predicts what will happen to Tayo and how he can avoid capture. In this, she is like the Spider Woman who explained to the Sun how to retrieve his children, the clouds, from the gambler. Then when Tayo tells Ku'oosh and the other elders of her, they explain that she is the mythical A'moo'ooh and that the hunter is the mountain lion.

Betonie had explained to Tayo that in order to cure the new illnesses, new ceremonies were needed and that since the illnesses included the influence of the whites, the ceremonies would also need to make use of objects from the whites. The uranium mine represents this element. It represents the relationship of the whites to the earth. They think that they can take possession of it, take what they need from it, and then leave it, without offering anything in return and without completing any ceremonies. As Tayo incorporates the abandoned mine into his ceremony, he reincorporates that part of land, and symbolically all of the land that he whites have claimed, into the Native American tradition and into the reservation.

Tayo is performing the ceremony not only for himself, but also for all of the men who went to the war and for all of his people who are affected by the contact between different cultures and who are afflicted by the drought. He is not, however, able to save everyone. In order to complete the ceremony, Tayo must also accept that a certain element of loss is a part of life. He must not become completely dispirited by the failure of Harley and Leroy to stand up for him in the face of Emo, and he must stand by while Harley is tortured to death. This latter is almost too much for him. But just when he is about to give in, the natural elements come to his aid, reminding him that the people and the community he now belongs to include the animals, the earth, and the elements, which will always be with him.

Although we do not see the rain return to the Laguna land, we know that it will through the parallel that has been established with the story of Hummingbird and Fly. Since they complete their ceremony and see the rain return, we know that the same will happen for Tayo. Although Tayo had to go out and meet another medicine man and make use of many things from outside of the Laguna tradition, he ends his ceremony with Ku'oosh and the elders of his home town. Everything in the novel comes full circle with this return, and the last three lines of the book repeat the first line, corresponding to Tayo's comment on the first morning he woke up with Ts'eh that "the Dawn people began and ended all their words with 'sunrise'."

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Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko -- Summer Reading

by samjoerg, September 05, 2013

summer reading assignment

Thanks.

by itrey3, September 19, 2013

Thanks to whoever took the time to write this. Could be redone though. Seems a little sloppy.

1 Comments

5 out of 6 people found this helpful

Louise Erdrich!?

by mhillebrand, December 07, 2013

She should be included in that unfortunately short list of major Native American authors. Big oversight, in my little opinion. Apart from that, I am very grateful for these notes - helping me study for Praxis II English!

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