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Spotless in Leslie Marmon Silko's "Ceremony"

analytical Essay
1310 words
1310 words
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Leslie Marmon Silko uses the idea of being speckled and/or spotless in her book Ceremony. To try to be spotless is the Laguna people trying to become a part of white society, hence, becoming separated from the Earth and from the roots, tradition, beliefs, rituals and customs of the Native American way. It is letting in white society with the belief that it can somehow improve you. It is destructive change that takes a person away from the Earth. It is change that specifies and names possessions and makes you question your own beliefs.

On the other hand, being speckled is learning and shifting with this clash of cultures in order for it not to interfere and destroy you. It is a change that helps you beat white society by not conforming to, but adapting to it. It is the idea togetherness and faithfulness in your own tradition and heritage and the idea of being one with nature (land, water, animals, etc.). This idea can be seen in Josiah's special breed of cattle.

Josiah breeds a new kind of cattle. They are spotted and skinny -- don't drink much water or don't eat much. Most everyone around him deems them worthless. These spots show a contradiction to traditional, spotless "white face" cattle. Traditional cattle cannot survive because they have been separated from the land so that they are no longer wild. They are scared lost and unfamiliar to the Earth. They are a fenced possession of man, not the land.

This is representative of characters like Tayo, Emo, Rocky and Harley, who have been separated from their culture because of the white man's war for so long, they don't know how to react now that they are back (Blumenthal, 368). In Ceremony, Josiah says, "Cattle are like any living thing. If you separate them from the land ...

... middle of paper ...

...ite society is just an illusion.

Works Cited

Blumenthal, Susan. "Spotted Cattle and Deer: Spirit Guides and Symbols of Endurance and Healing in Ceremony." The American Indian Quarterly. 14 (Fall 1990) : 367-77

Cutchins, Dennis. " `So That the Nations May Become Genuine Indian': Nativism and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony." Journal of American Culture 22.4 (1999) : 77-89.

Kilgore, Tracy Y., East Tennessee State University. " The Story is Everything: The Path to Renewal in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony. " East Tennessee State University, 2003.

Reck, Alexandra. "Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony: An Exploration of Characters and Themes." http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/218/projects/reck/alr.htm (6 Dec. 2005)

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1986

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how leslie marmon silko uses the idea of being speckled and/or spotless in her book ceremony.
  • Explains that being speckled is learning and shifting with this clash of cultures in order for it not to interfere and destroy you.
  • Explains that josiah breeds a new kind of cattle. they are spotted and skinny -- they don't drink much water or eat much. traditional, spotless "white face" cattle cannot survive because they have been separated from the land
  • Analyzes how tayo, emo and rocky have been separated from their culture because of the white man's war for so long, they don't know how to react now that they are back.
  • Analyzes how the new speckled breed shows relation to the lagunas. they are durable and can live on less than domesticated cattle.
  • Analyzes how silko describes navajo cattle like deer or antelope because they are the only things that have that "wildness." spotlessness resists change because it fights against what is natural to the earth.
  • Opines that the white culture is a destructive mix for the laguna people and all native americans after war because it takes them away from the earth.
  • Analyzes how rocky falls for this great white hype. he doesn't believe what they are saying about their views of the cattle, and listens to the books written by the scientists.
  • Analyzes how auntie embraces the destructive elements of white society and native american tradition in a destructive manner. she follows white beliefs and chooses to follow the european way rather than stick with her traditional customs.
  • Analyzes how reck makes the point that in this native american/white culture collision, we see characters trying to stay in their traditional culture, while others try to leave it. rocky backs off of his cultural roots by degrading josiah's idea of the cattle on the basis of science books.
  • Analyzes how rocky demonstrates how native americans are fooled by the illusion that they can attain the power and success that the white culture offers.
  • Analyzes how rocky's integration into the white culture is the very idea that kills him. this white world (being spotless) is destructive.
  • Analyzes how tayo submits, like rocky, and becomes destructive like auntie and emo, but is different because he can come out of it by growth and understanding and accepting change that brings him back to the land.
  • Analyzes how tayo is troubled by the fact of white men stealing the cattle and realizes his thinking that only indians steal and that white people wouldn't do anything like that.
  • Analyzes how tayo accepts and deals with the changes. the speckled cattle represent change and earth's natural practice, and as he seeks to bring them back, they bring him back.
  • Analyzes how silko shows the true ideas of the native american way. the white culture must be combated with change that reconnects a person to the earth.
  • Analyzes how rocky and auntie detach themselves from their own culture's ways in order to satisfy a growing temptation from the outside.
  • Cites bloomenthal, susan, cutchins, dennis, kilgore, tracy y., east tennessee state university.
  • Cites reck, alexandra, in "leslie marmon silko's ceremony: an exploration of characters and themes."
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