The central conflict of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony is Tayo’s struggle to gain psychological wholeness in the face of various traumatic experiences, ranging from a troubled childhood to cultural marginalization and combat experiences during World War. Throughout the novel, the key to Tayo’s psychological recovery is his rediscovery of Native American cultural practices.
Most of the crucial turning points in the novel occurs when Tayo listens to, takes part in, or learns more about Native American cultural traditions. He progresses towards recovery when he visits medicine men, returns to traditional customs and practices, or develops an intimate relationship with someone like Ts’eh who lives according to traditional ways. As he develops an increased understanding of native cultural practices and ritual ceremonies he finds psychological peace, which he quickly loses whenever he seeks other sources of healing-whether he seeks them in the glories . . . Read More
The people of the Anasazi tradition inhabit the area of what is now the Southwestern United States (from Taos, New Mexico, to the Hopi mesas in Arizona). They are named Pueblo, meaning “village Indians” in Spanish. They live in concentrated villages of buildings constructed from adobe local clay, and stone. These buildings are entered from the top floor. The buildings, often reaching to five stories, surround a plaza with a central kiva-a ceremonial place dug into the ground.
Of these people, the western Keres Tribe inhabits Acoma and Laguna. Acoma, perched atop a 400-foot mesa, has been continuously inhabited since at least 1075 AD. Laguna was established more recently. The Pueblo economy centered on a sophisticated system of dry farming and seed cultivation. The matrilineal culture had its labor division: men farmed and performed the ceremonial dances; women made intricate basketry, exquisite pottery, . . . Read More
Silko once explained the Pueblo linguistic theory to an audience (found in Yello Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit) and that theory explains the narrative technique of her novel.
“For those of you accustomed to being taken from point A to point B to point C, this presentation may be somewhat difficult to follow. Pueblo expression resembles something like a spider’s web-with many little threads radiating from the center, crisscrossing one another. As with the web, the structure emerges as it is made, and you must simply listen and trust, as the Pueblo people do, that meaning will be made.”
Not knowing the above theory, critics have lauded Ceremony’s non-chronological narrative. Silko’s purpose in using this technique for her story is to mimic, once again, the zig-zag pattern of the corn dance as well as to stay true to ThoughtWoman. That is, the whole of the novel is a ceremony that . . . Read More
The Pueblo concept of reciprocity did not allow for evil. They believed that because all things were interconnected, they simply had to keep up their end of the bargain. For example, when a hunter takes a deer, he sprinkles cornmeal to the spirits. If the dances and ceremonies are done, the crops will be plentiful.
However, the Pueblos gradually found they needed an explanation for those evils which violated this theory of reciprocity. They did not alter their cosmology by adding a devil. Instead, they attributed evil to witchery or the manipulation of life’s elements to selfish and violent ends. Furthermore, Native American people out of touch with the stories of the people or wanting to replace those stories are the ones that use witchery and, therefore, only Native American medicine and story can undo witchery. One story about witches explains that Native Americans wear the skins of other animals in order to become . . . Read More
As a Christian, Auntie represents a break with the traditional ways and beliefs. In addition, she is a martyr in her own mind. As she says in the novel: “I’ve spent all my life defending this family … It doesn’t bother me but this hurts Grandma so much.” She reminds every member of the family how she has to deal with the gossip about them – especially the talk about Little Sister and Josiah. Due to this concern about what people think of her family, Tayo “knew she wouldn’t send him away to a veteran’s hospital” when she saw that he was sick.
When Tayo returns from war, “Auntie stares at him the way she always had, teaching inside him with her eyes, calling up the past as if it were his future too, as if things would always by the same for him.” She considers him as just another burden in her life-and then reminds everyone about what she had done for him. At the . . . Read More
Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony tells the story of Tayo, a mixed-blood Native American from the Laguna Pueblo reservation who is severely traumatized by his unstable childhood and combat experiences during World War II. As the novel progresses, Tayo attempts to recover from these deep psychological wounds by drawing on various Native American cultural traditions.
His journey toward psychological wellness is made long and difficult, however, because his people’s traditional healing ceremonies must be adapted to cure the new modem illnesses that he suffers from such as alcoholism and the psychological shocks caused by modem warfare. In addition, Silko uses a complex, fragmented, non-linear plot to represent Tayo’s psychological struggles. While this initially makes the story somewhat confusing, the story becomes easier to understand once the reader recognizes how Tayo’s psychological journey structures the novel’s complex development. The . . . Read More
Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front offers readers a fictional yet accurate account of the life of a common soldier in the trenches during final two years of the First World War. Like the book’s narrator, Paul Baumer, Remarque was a German soldier himself. During the decade following the German defeat, he suffered from depression and a sense of loss. Finally, in 1928, he wrote Im Westen nichts Neues, translated into English in 1929 as All Quiet on the Western Front. It quickly became an international best-seller. Soon after the publication of the book, the American-made film of All Quiet on the Western Front was released to international acclaim.
Response to Remarque’s work was not all positive, however. In Germany, older people detested the negative portrait of the war and of their generation. In 1933, the German Nazi regime banned and burned the book, as Hans Wagener notes in his Understanding Erich Maria Remarque. Even the showing . . . Read More
World War I
Named for its complex involvement of countries from Northern Europe to Africa, western Asia, and the V.S., World War I, called the Great War, was ignited by a single episode. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia. As the Austrian government plotted a suit able retribution against the Serbs, the effect on Russia was taken into consideration. Because Russia was closely allied with Serbia, Austrian officials worried that the slightest aggression against the Serbs would result in Russian involvement. As a precaution, Austria sought support from Germany, its most powerful ally. Kaiser Wilhelm II immediately vouched for Germany’s assistance, telling the Austrian powers that his nation would support whatever action the Austrian government might take.
On July 23, 1914, the Austrian empire presented an ultimatum to the Serbs, demanding . . . Read More
Point of View
Erich Maria Remarque has been praised for the simple, direct language of his war novels in contrast to their often violent subject matter; he is also acknowledged for his ability to create moving, realistic characters and situations. His prose style is punctuated with fragmented narrative passages that mirror Paul’s often disoriented state of mind. The plot moves in a “bildungsroman” format, demonstrating a young man’s personal development. There are impressionist details that move in tableau fashion. Remarque’s choice of a first-person narrator does, however, create one possible problem: the two concluding paragraphs have to stem from a new, apparently omniscient third-person narrator whose intervention is needed after the death of the first-person narrator. The story does not suffer from this change of viewpoint or from the absence of any explanation of the mechanics by which it came to be set . . . Read More
Individual vs. Machine
The patriotism of war is a thing of the past, Remarque suggests, as the young recruits quickly learn about the reality of trench warfare. Paul Baurner, fresh from Baumerchool at the beginning of the novel, is sent after skimpy but brutal basic training to the trenches in France. He quickly learns that living or dying has little to do with one’s prowess as a soldier but more as a conditioned reflex. Since the Allies outgunned the Axis in artillery and machinery, the German youth took refuge in trenches that were no match for the kind of warfare waged. As more and more of his comrades are killed, Baumer sees that death comes from afar in the artillery shells and the bombs, and as the trenches offer less and less refuge from the other side’s new tanks and airplanes and its better guns, survival becomes little more than a chance.
Thus, the theme of All Quiet on the Western Front is the . . . Read More