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Ceremony (Leslie Marmon Silko)

In her novel Ceremony, author Leslie Marmon Silko writes of the psychological anguish of Native American veterans returned from World War Two. This would make Ceremony, first published in 1977, a somewhat outdated account of a past cultural event - were it not for the form of her storytelling. Ms. Silko adopts a ritualistic approach to the story of the half-breed Tayo's coming to terms with his war experiences. In so doing, she creates of his tale a myth: it takes on the characteristics of Native American "history," an oral tradition mixing fact and allegory, ritual and reality. This paper will explore some of the aspects of myth in Ceremony, and the techniques Leslie Marmon Silko utilizes to strive for that goal.

She does not create of her main character a mythic protagonist in the classic Euro-American mold. Hers is not an "heroic" ex-warrior in the Greek, Roman, or Arthurian traditions. Tayo, the half-white/half-Laguna "reservation Indian," is a war vet who readily acknowledges that he probably never killed anybody intentionally during the War. Instead, Tayo is haunted by memories of two instances where he failed to save lives: the lives of surrendering Japanese enemies, murdered by his G.I. comrades-in-arms, and the life of his cousin Rocky, the success-oriented pride of the reservation, who Tayo had promised to bring home safely. In Tayo's mind these deaths blend into another death, that of Josiah, Tayo's uncle. Tayo had promised Josiah not to go to war but to stay on the reservation and help the family; he was lured into enlisting by Rocky; during the war Josiah died while hunting down cattle that had become lost (or stolen). He died because he was doing this alone, without Tayo at his side.

As the novel opens, Tayo sees Japanese soldiers die - and he sees Josiah die ten thousand miles away at the same time. There is no considering of this vision as superstition or premonition: it is fact. From the very fi...

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Ceremony (Leslie Marmon Silko). (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:53, July 04, 2022, from