Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Laguna Pueblo

What do you think is the central conflict in Tayo, the protagonist of Ceremony? Why is it so difficult for him to resolve this conflict?

In Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Tayo exists in two worlds, Native American and Caucasian, and he is torn between his past and his future. He goes to war and comes back to a place where he is not accepted by Caucasians unless he’s wearing his military uniform. In a way, he feels that he will never be part of the white world even though he served in the military with the rest of them. Another central conflict to the story is identity/purpose. War gave him an identity and some purpose but now he is back he feels purposeless (this is likely true of all veterans). On a larger scale, the conflict is also between Native Americans as a culture and America as a predominantly white nation.

The Anglo world is portrayed from the point of view of an antagonist. It is blamed for the troubles that come with the Native American existence. Furthermore, the Anglos are blamed for destroying Native American lands, culture and traditions and replacing them with their own (mainly Christianity). As it often happens with many antagonists, white society also appears to be envied for what it has been and for what it represents. In this case, envy seems to be concentrated on white women and the Native American desire for white women.

The Anglo world is also portrayed as busy and detached. They appear to be separated from reality and unable to relate to how the world really functions. In a way, it reminds me of what many Republicans say about Mitt Romney. Besides being removed from reality, white society is also blamed for destroying Native American lands, culture and traditions and replacing them with their own. (Also like Mitt Romney and Wall Street element that he represents). In addition to this, white society is also represented as something to be emulated and desired. For example, Aunti emphasizes her Christian faith and denounces traditional beliefs.

Laguna Pueblo is a place of conflict. It is torn between the past and future and between the Native American world and the American (white) world and even between paganism and Christianity. It is also a world that is dealing with returning veterans and people have seen big city life and feel stifled in their small-town. Many young people in the tribe want to escape to Albuquerque but few manage to make it past Gallup. People need to be able to be “of use,” as John Irving writes in Cider House Rules but the reservation gives people a little hope to be “of use.” As a result, there’s a lot of hopelessness and drunkenness.


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