Essay, Research Paper: Ceremony

World Literature

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In the novel, Silko explores the gender roles of four women and the significance
to the development and actualization of Tayo’s character. These four women are
Tayo’s birth mother, Auntie, old Grandma, and Ts’eh (a Montano). Because
Tayo is of mixed ancestry, half white and half Native American, Tayo discovers
he has a “natural” cultural flaw imposed upon him at birth, which would
linger and expand into adulthood. At four years old, Tayo’s birth mother left
him with his Aunt and Grandmother so they could raise him as their own due to
her alcohol addiction and vicarious life-style. “He didn’t remember much:
only that she (mother) had come after dark and wrapped him in a man’s coat –
it smelled like a man – and that there were men in the car with them . . . he
clung to her because when she left him, he knew she would be gone for a long
time . . . there were tears all over his face and his nose was running (Silko
65-66).” Nonetheless, Tayo’s sense of emptiness and abandonment began.
Auntie raised Tayo and was the mother figure he lacked. However, Auntie
reluctantly accepted this responsibility because she could not bear to raise a
child that brought the reservation shame by his mother’s mistake. On the other
hand, Auntie willingly accepted Tayo to “conceal the shame of her younger
sister (Ibid 29).” This contradiction, made Auntie hesitant toward Tayo as he
was not her real son and was also a “half-breed.” For Tayo, this only added
to his feeling of displacement and the feeling of being “invisible (Ibid
14).” Auntie would give her affection and attention to her natural son Rocky,
and would intentionally make Tayo feel excluded. “It was a private
understanding between the two of them. When Josiah or old Grandma or Robert was
there, the agreement was suspended, and she pretended to treat him the same as
she treated Rocky, but they both knew it was only temporary (Ibid 66-67).”
Moreover, this treatment towards Tayo had only added “salt in the wound.”
After the war, Auntie nursed Tayo because “he was all she had left (Ibid
29)” after Rocky was killed in action and Josiah had passed. Tayo would wake
up crying after dreaming about how much Josiah had loved him and always hugged
him when he was a child (Ibid 32). Now he realized that there wasn’t a place
left for him and he would never find peace (Ibid 32). Auntie may have felt she
mothered him (out of duty), yet to Tayo she was just someone who looked after
him. Unlike Auntie, old Grandma, does accept Tayo as her own blood and wants
only the best for him. For instance, when Grandma suggested, “that boy needs a
medicine man. Otherwise, he will have to go away,” Auntie retaliated with
“Oh, I don’t know, Mama. You know how they are. You know what people will
say if we ask for a medicine man to help him. Someone will say it’s not right.
They’ll say, ‘Don’t do it. He’s not full blood anyway (Ibid 33).’”
However, Grandma stated “he’s my grandson. If I send for old Ku’oosh,
he’ll come. Let them talk if they want to (Ibid 33).” In other words,
Grandma is more concerned about the health and well being of her grandson rather
than the gossip of the other tribesmen. The love and compassion demonstrated by
old Grandma allowed Tayo to experience some feeling of belongingness, however
not enough to make Tayo feel whole. It is when Tayo meets and falls in love with
Ts’eh, a mystical character that appears and disappears in various parts of
the novel, that he completes his healing journey. The significance of Ts’eh to
Ceremony is very powerful and vital to the recovery of Tayo. She lives up in the
rim rock and is in tune with the land and her surroundings. Being torn between
the white world and the Indian world and the unfortunate circumstances of his
upbringing, leaves Tayo feeling invisible and hollow inside. Ts’eh helps him
to become in touch with his Indian side and to feel strength and power from the
land. She teaches him the importance of certain plants, flowers, and ceremonies
and how they are significant to Native American culture and survival. Thus,
after falling deeply in love with her, Tayo begins to feel alive again.

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