Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko Essay

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko Essay

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The inherent desire to belong to a group is one that is fundamental to human nature. In his article “Evolution and Our Inner Conflict,” Edward O. Wilson writes, “A person’s membership in his group – his tribe – is a large part of his identity.” Wilson explores multilevel group selection and the proclivity for people to define themselves based on their belonging to the group. He goes on to say that people often form these groups with those who look like them and belong to the same culture or ethnic group. In the novels Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko and The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick, the identities of the protagonist are predominantly shaped by the ethnicities and heritages that they identify with. The identity of Tayo, the protagonist of the novel Ceremony is largely shaped by his ethnicity as both a Native American and part white. Tayo’s background leads directly to his own identity as an outsider and is central to the storyline. In the novel The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick, the title character Puttermesser’s identity and subsequently her story is also influenced by her Jewish heritage.
In the novel Ceremony, Tayo is often marginalized by his traditional Native American society. Tayo is not full Native American like the majority of people that live in his community. He is half Native American and half Mexican, and his lighter skin tone and his hazel eyes clearly mark Tayo as “mixed”. He is not simply a bastard, but is the bastard of a white man and a disgraced Native American woman. Tayo felt his stigma throughout his entire time growing up due to the actions of his Auntie, his mother’s sister, who raised him. Feeling shame for having to take care of her sister’s mistake, Auntie never treated Tayo fairly. Ev...


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...s the only one who sees the injustice and still identifies most wholly with Native American identity, and does not wish for a place in white society.
Having grown up with these men and serving with them in the military with them did not eliminate the differences between them because of Tayo’s mixed ethnicity. Emo, one of the men who has never liked Tayo, consistently harasses him because he is half white. At the bar, without provocation, Emo says to Tayo, “There he is. He thinks he’s something all right. Because he’s part white. Don’t you, half breed?” (Silko 52). Though Tayo has not yet don’t anything to deserve harassment from Emo, the fact that he is not full Native American does make a difference in the way certain people view him, and thus in the way he views himself. Tayo goes on to say that Emo hated him since grade school, just because he was part white.

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