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Ceremony

Leslie Marmon Silko

Section 4

Section 3

Section 5

Summary

Harley keeps drinking and talking about the incident, which sent Tayo back to the hospital. As he gets drunk, Harley begins to speak Laguna. On that other day, in the bar, Emo goes on about how the white men got everything, and in retaliation they should go out and get white women. Tayo goes to the bathroom, imagining his pee is a way to return water to the land but then slipping into memories of the war. When Tayo returns to the table, Emo accuses him of thinking he is better than the others because he is half-white. Growing up, Tayo was used to being teased and to his Auntie's shame and slowly came to realize the complex interactions between white men and Indian women as well as that of Indian men and white women. Emo tells stories of the white women he slept with while he was in the army. Then Leroy and Harley tell a story of a white woman Emo was having sex with, who suddenly fainted when she realized he was an Indian. This story makes Emo uncomfortable, and Emo accuses Tayo of not liking his stories because he thinks he and his "big hero cousin" are better than everyone else. But, Emo says, Tayo sure can drink like an Indian. Tayo ignores him. Then Emo gets out his bag of human teeth, war souvenirs, and talks about what great soldiers they were, and Tayo tenses as he senses how much Emo enjoyed the killing. Finally, Tayo jumps up and accuses Emo of being a killer. Emo laughs and accuses Tayo of loving Japs the way his mother loved white men, at which point Tayo lunges at him. When the cops come to take him away, Tayo's anger has been overwhelmed with confusion.

Tayo signed up for the army because Rocky did. They were the only two people at the recruiting session. Rocky was enthusiastic and only wanted to make sure that he and his brother could stay together. It was the first time Rocky had ever referred to Tayo as his brother: Auntie had always been very careful to maintain the distinction of the two boys being cousins.

Laura, Tayo's mother, left him with her brother Josiah and the rest of her family when he was four years old. Although she had left him before, everyone knew that this time was permanent when Josiah told Tayo that he had a brother now, and Rocky screamed that he did not want a brother. Tayo and Rocky slept in the same bed. While they were young, whenever Auntie was alone with the two boys she made sure that Tayo felt the difference of his status, although with the whole family the two boys were treated equally. As they grew up, spending less and less time alone with Auntie, their treatment equaled out, but Tayo remained acutely aware of all the undertones of Auntie's voice and movement.

Auntie tried desperately to keep Laura from running off, but the world was changing. The old Indian ways were becoming mixed with the white ways, and Laura was receiving competing messages from her community and from her teachers and the missionaries. Caught between two cultures, Laura became ashamed of both, and her sister and her people were not able to recover her. They were ashamed and angry and in conflict with one another over the events as well.

The poem/story of Pa'caya'nyi and the drought continues. Hummingbird offers to serve as a messenger for the people, if they provide him with a special jar over which they have sung a special song.

Analysis

The confluence of Native American and white cultures is embodied in Tayo's very being, as he is of mixed race. His birth and subsequent abandonment are the result of his mother's difficulties in negotiating the conflicting messages she received at home on the reservation and at the white-run school. Tayo's mother was of the first generation to experience white-run schools. Raised on the reservation and never having known his white father, Tayo is clearly Native American by culture. Since he is partly Native American, he experiences the same racism as his friends when he is in white society. Emo and his other childhood friends, however, have always noticed the difference. This is not only because they know the stories of Tayo's mother, but because his difference is marked on his body, in the color of his eyes.

Although Tayo in no way feels that he is white, he does feel a sense of separation from his community, which he is desperate to overcome. The metaphor for belonging to a community is belonging to a family. Since Tayo was raised by his aunt, he has always felt, just slightly, like an outsider even in his family. This again is in great part a result of cultural conflict. While family units in Native American culture often consist of several generations as well as groups of siblings living together—as is reflected in Old Grandma and Josiah's easy acceptance of Tayo—in white culture the nuclear family is most valued, as is reflected in Auntie and Rocky's initial reactions to Tayo. Tayo's desperation to feel a sense of complete belonging in his family is shown in his tremendous reaction to Rocky's first pronouncement that they are brothers, rather than cousins.

The effects of internalized racism are again demonstrated as Emo assumes that since he is half-white, Tayo would think that he is better, rather than worse, than those who are of full Native American ancestry. In addition, however, Emo maintains a certain belief that races ought to remain separated. Although he proudly tells stories of his exploits with white women, he criticizes Tayo's mother for liking white men, and he criticizes Tayo for liking the Japanese.

The poem offers a possible cure for the drought. The cure requires a messenger, and a ceremony. As Tayo's story is reflected in the poem, we know that in order to cure Tayo and end the drought of his time, a similar set of events is necessary. Tayo already stands out as the perfect messenger, but Ku'oosh, the medicine man, has warned him that the ceremony he has undergone is no longer effective.

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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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