Interpretive Richness of Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony
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The interpretative richness of Silko’s Ceremony
Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony is the extraordinary tale of Tayo, a mixed-blood Native
American in his long quest to cure the suffering that afflicts him and his people. The novel is
complex enough that it can be interpreted in the context of starkly different paradigms, each
highlighting important facets of the story. For instance, in the article “Feminine perspectives at
Laguna Pueblo: Silko’s Ceremony,” Edith Swan offers a (symbolic) analysis of the plethora of
important female characters in the novel that is based on a deliberately unicultural, Laguna
worldview on the grounds that “[...] western presumptions must be set aside so that they do not
adversely bias or manipulate tribal structures of meaning. Native premises must be allowed to
stand on their own terms” (309). On the other hand, Dennis Cutchins, in his article “‘So that the
nations may become genuine Indian’: Nativism and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony”
advocates a politico-historical interpretation of the novel as a reaction against the overwhelming
influence of Western civilization on Native American culture. This reaction, Cutchins argues,
takes the form of a “revision” of history for the purpose of removing the Western influence and
adapting ancient traditions to better serve the needs of the present, thus resolving the conflict
between the two cultures. Cutchins’ interpretation therefore, is multicultural, focussing on the
historical relationship between Western and Native American cultures and providing a paradigm
(namely, nativism) that helps put it all in perspective. By utilizing divergent paradigms in
interpreting Ceremony, Swan and Cutchins both succeed in highlighting the many fascinating...
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...nse in the context of the outside world and the history of the
Native American people. The differing theses however, do not contradict each other. Rather,
they complement each other by providing a more complete picture through the simultaneous
consideration of socio-cultural as well as politico-historical perspectives of the novel.
Cutchins, Dennis. “‘So that the nations may become genuine Indian’: Nativism and Leslie
Marmon Silko’s Ceremony.” Journal of American Culture 22.4 (1 Dec. 1999): not
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Penguin, 1977.
Swan, Edith. “Feminine Perspectives at Laguna Pueblo: Silko’s Ceremony.” Tulsa Studies in
Women’s Literature 11.2 (Autumn, 1992): 309-328.
Work cited from within Swan, Edith:
Allen, Paula Gunn. “The Psychological Landscape of Ceremony.” American Indian Quarterly.
5.1 (1979): 12.