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Ceremony Novel Essay Book by Leslie Silko

In: Novels

Submitted By iloveceb
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My whole life I’ve been surrounded by stories; my culture thrives on stories, especially those about my ancestors, nature, religion, and rituals. Many of our cultural stories are ancient and appear mythological, yet most of our village considers them valuable and true. However, I refuse to believe these ancient tales. Believing these stories would only inhibit my desire for my family to become something greater than what we already are. Beyond these cultural stories, my village constantly bombards me with stories and gossip of my family. Our people blame me for my family’s actions; everyday is a battle for me to work towards clearing our family’s name amongst our people. However, this is incredibly difficult for me as my family is often selfish and cannot see how their actions affect others, especially me. As a Christian and devout woman of God, I find it my duty to take on sacrifices in order to advance myself spiritually and socially. Every Sunday I go to church alone; I can’t bare the thought of bringing our corrupt family with me. Of course I pray that our family members would be baptized, but I have to worry about saving my own soul. For this reason, I sacrificed for my sister, Laura, and raised her son, Tayo. During Laura’s lifetime, I was responsible for fixing her mistakes as I had always been more virtuous and spiritual than her. When we were young, Laura’s drunkenness and lust concerned our people and they feared they were losing not only her, but also themselves. I had to take on the burden of saving Laura for our people. I fought for her to come back to us but it was useless because she had too much shame. When our people failed to save Laura, everyone was humiliated. In turn, “they focused the anger on [Laura] and [my] family, knowing from many years of this conflict that the anger could not be contained by a single person or family but that it must leak out and soak into the ground under the entire village” (69). From this point on, I became responsible for our family’s actions as “everything belonged to [my mother and I] including the good family name” (32). One night when mother and I had gone to bingo at the church, Laura had left Tayo at my home for Robert and I to raise as our son. I was angry and from that point on, there was a private understanding between Tayo and I that he was not to be treated as my real son, Rocky. “[I] wanted [Tayo] close enough to feel excluded, to be aware of the distance between [the boys]” (67). After the boys started school, the distance between Tayo and Rocky faded but was still present among us. Although it saddened me that Rocky withdrew from me as he grew older, I was proud of who he was becoming, unlike Tayo. When Tayo was old enough, I told him the shameful story of his mother coming home at sunrise after a night out, walking through the yard wearing nothing but high heels. The story is so horrid that I never told my mother because I feared it would bring her pain; I can only hope the story brought Tayo pain as Laura was his mother and he deserved to feel ashamed of her. “Without him there would have not been so much shame and disgrace for the family” (70). I feel as if Tayo holds some responsibility for his mother; had Laura never given birth to Tayo, the stories and gossip from our people would have dwindled shortly after she died. But instead, our family’s shame continues amongst the village because Tayo is a half-breed and a living reminder of Laura. I resented Tayo even more than I resented Laura because he survived the war while he deserved to die before Rocky. Rocky had his whole life ahead of him while Tayo is making nothing of his. I despise the majestic stories our people believe and was thrilled when Rocky began to share my disbelief. Rocky read sports magazines and believed in science while Tayo read books written about the land and believed stories he was told. “[I] valued Rocky’s growing understanding of the outside world, of the books, of everything of importance and power” (76). Rocky was beginning to become part of something greater which I have always secretly desired. He was “someone ho could not only make sense of the outside world but become part of it” (76). After Rocky died in the war, I was empty and lost all hope in living a sacrificial life and saving my family’s name. It was not until we heard of Tayo’s sickness that I had the opportunity to potentially redeem myself. I had already raised Tayo and I did not want to care for him during his sickness, however, “this time [I] would keep him because he was all [I] had left” (29). “[I] needed a new struggle, another opportunity to show those who might gossip that [I] had still another unfortunate burden which proved that, above all else, [I] was a Christian woman” (30). My family made it difficult for me to diminish the stories people gossiped about us while Tayo was sick. Mother insisted that a medicine man make a visit to Tayo, disregarding that the Army doctor had clearly said “No Indian medicine” (34). I knew the medicine man’s attempt to heal Tayo with a bag of weeds, dust, and soft chants would fail. Furthermore, word would spread of his need for Ku’oosh and people would began to whisper and tell stories of how Tayo became crazy. As if Laura and Tayo had not caused enough trouble for the family, my brother, Josiah, had relations with a Mexican stripper, the Night Swan. Rumors amongst our women spread like wildfire and people laughed when they heard of Josiah’s relationship with the Night Swan. Even after Josiah’s death, I am mortified to be associated with him, especially as “I’ve spent all my life defending this family, but nobody ever stops to think what the people will say or that Father Kenneth will call me aside after mass to speak with me” (88). I yearn to be able to walk through the village without people whispering stories about my family’s failures, yet this mentality is not held by my younger generation. While Tayo’s illness appeared to heal, my mother believes old Betonie brought about this healing through his ridiculous chants and stories. I, however, was watching Tayo closely because “[I] didn’t trust the peace [we] had in the house now” (215). The women in Church asked me privately “how [I] had managed all those years to face the troubles which had been dropped into [my] lap”; I told them, “It isn’t easy. It never has been easy” (258). What I did not include in my answer to the women was my constant fear that the troubles will reappear at any moment without warning or discretion. Therefore, I continue to live in anticipation of new struggle and shame which I must make right in order to further my soul and protect my family name.…...

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