While this story is literally about a pestilence called the Red Death, it can be read at an allegorical level as a tale about man’s fear of his own mortality. In the story, Prince Prospero and his “thousand friends” seal themselves into an abbey of his castle in an attempt to “defy contagion” and escape the clutches of the Red Death. The Prince employs ”all the appliances of pleasure” in order to distract his guests both from the suffering and death outside their walls and from thoughts of their own vulnerability to the Red Death. The Prince’s actions symbolize the ways in which all humans tend to focus on material pleasures in order to distract themselves from the knowledge that everyone, including themselves, eventually must die.
The fact that the Red Death slips in ”like a thief in the night” to claim the lives of everyone present symbolizes the fact that no one, . . . Read More
The Masked Figure
The “masked figure” that appears at Prince Prospero’s costume ball is the most illusive “character” in the story. Upon the stroke of midnight, the guests first notice this “masked figure,” who is “tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave,” and looks like the corpse of a body afflicted by the Red Death, its face “besprinkled with the scarlet horror.” Prince Prospero orders that the figure be unmasked and hanged at dawn, but his guests refuse to unmask him. The figure then retreats through all seven rooms of the abbey, pursued by Prince Prospero. When the figure reaches the seventh room, it turns to face the Prince, who falls instantly to his death. When the guests rush to seize the figure, they find that, beneath the corpse-like costume, there is no ”tangible form.” The masked figure turns out to be The Red Death . . . Read More
Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death” begins with a description of a plague, the ”Red Death.” It is the most deadly plague ever, as “no pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.” The symptoms of the plague include “sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores.” The “scarlet stains” on the body, and especially the face, of its victims are the ”pest ban” or first visible signs of the disease. Once the stains appear, the victim has only thirty minutes before death.
In order to escape the spread of the plague, Prince Prospero invites “a thousand hale and lighthearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court” to seal themselves “in deep seclusion” in an abbey of his castle, allowing no one to enter or leave. With adequate provisions, Prospero and his privileged guests attempt to ”bid defiance to contagion,” by . . . Read More
Over the last twenty years, the general development of scholarship about women’ s lives and art parallels an unprecedented flowering of creative writing by American Indian women. But in view of these parallel developments, American Indian women have shown little interest in the feminist movement, and conversely mainstream feminist scholarship has paid strikingly little attention to the writing of American Indian women.
Leslie Silko’s Storyteller (1981), a product of this literary florescence, has remained virtually undiscussed as a whole by critics of any stamp. With its emphasis on women tradition bearers, female deities, and its woman author’s personal perspective, Storyteller seems to ask for a feminist critical treatment….
Particularly applicable to Silko’s Storyteller are feminist critical strategies to reclaim as legitimate literary subjects, women’s experience and female mythic power. Sandra M. Gilbert sees this . . . Read More
Her work widely anthologized, Leslie Marmon Silko is considered the preeminent Native American woman novelist, a legend in her achievements in the field of Native American literature. Her writings are included in the syllabus of various American literature courses in high schools and colleges. Raised on the Indian reservation in Laguna, New Mexico, she incorporates into her writing the stories, myths, and legends she heard as she grew up. Of Pueblo, Mexican, and white descent, she was both an insider and outsider in Laguna, and this makes her an interesting chronicler of stories about modern-day life on the reservation. In an interview she has stated: ”Oral literatures of the indigenous populations worldwide contain (these) kind of valuable insights…. You can look at the old stories that were told among the tribal people here in a north country and see that within them is the same kind of valuable lessons about human behavior and that we need them still.” In the . . . Read More
Silko wrote the story “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” in 1967 for a creative writing class, basing it upon a real-life incident in Laguna, New Mexico. In the late 1960s there was an interest in indigenous cultures in America. Many Indians moved off the reservations and into mainstream American culture, becoming more visible as a result. Peter Farb’s Man’s Rise to Civilization (1968) generated interest in Native Americans, while Scott Momaday, a Native American, won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his novel House Made of Dawn. Silko asserts, ”It was a kind of renaissance, I suppose…. It is difficult to pinpoint why but, perhaps, in the 1960s, around the time when Momaday’s books got published, there was this new interest, maybe it was not new, but people became more aware of indigenous cultures. It was an opening up worldwide.” Native Americans were suddenly publishing books and Silko was one of the first published Pueblo women . . . Read More
Point of View
The story is told through an objective, third-person narrative, and unfolds in a rigidly objective tone. There is no hint of the narrator’s personal voice as each character is presented. With the exception of the graveyard scene that concludes the story, the narrator does not explain the character’s thoughts, but presents only the action of the story.
The story is set on the Laguna Indian Reservation in New Mexico. The landscape of the story with its arroyos and mesas is an integral part of the story. Silko captures the landscape very effectively in her narrative. For instance, “The big cottonwood tree stood apart from a small grove of winterbare cottonweeds which grew in the wide, sandy arroyo…. Leon waited under the tree while Ken drove the truck through the deep sand to the edge of the arroyo…. But high and northwest the blue mountains were . . . Read More
In her short story “The Man to Send Rain Clouds,” Silko perceives creativity as a source of strength for Native Americans, a theme that recurs in her later works. In particular, Leon’s strength lies in his ability to creatively combine Indian rituals with Catholic rituals. He does not strictly follow the Indian ways, but adds a new element by asking the Catholic priest to sprinkle holy water on Teofilo’s grave. Throughout the story, Silko emphasizes that the strength of Pueblo traditions lies in their ability to incorporate alien elements into their own way of life.
Custom and Tradition
Silko’s story is concerned with the strength of the customs and traditions of the Native Americans, and how to resolve a conflict between Native American customs and Christian customs. Leon asks the Catholic priest to participate in the community’s Indian rites. . . . Read More
Ken is the brother-in-law of Leon and a minor character in the story. Like old Teofilo and Leon, he also believes in following Indian ways, and he helps his brother-in-law any way he can.
Leon is Teofilo’s grandson. He manages to integrate American Indian ways and Christian ways; he is a Christian who still respects his roots and cultural heritage. He smiles as he paints his dead grandfather’s face according to the Native American custom and believes that the old man’s spirit will bring rain. He is a man of few words and has a calm, strong sense of dignity. After finding Teofilo’s body, Leon does not talk about it. At home, Leon informs his family of Teofilo’s death with few words. The fact that he is able to persuade the priest to sprinkle holy water at the grave site with a few well-chosen words—without . . . Read More
‘’The Man to Send Rain Clouds” is set on an Indian reservation in the American Southwest, with its wide mesas (plateaus) and arroyos (ravines). As the story opens, Leon and his brother-in-law, Ken, find an old man, Teofilo, dead under a cottonwood tree. They ritually paint his face and take his body, wrapped in a red blanket, to their home for a traditional Pueblo funeral ceremony. (The Pueblo people paint the faces of the dead so that they will be recognized in the next world. They also scatter corn and sprinkle water to provide food and water for the spirit on its journey to the other world. To the Pueblo, death is not the end of existence, but part of a cycle in which the spirit of the deceased returns to its source and then helps the community of the living by returning with rain clouds for the nourishment of the earth.)
On their way home, Leon and Ken encounter Father Paul, a young Catholic priest who expresses his sorrow that the old man had died . . . Read More