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The Effects of Time in Ceremony

June 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

In her novel Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko subverts trends of the conventional Western narrative through her descriptions of time. Rather than telling the story of Tayo in a linear chronology, Silko instead creates a more authentic experience by constantly shifting in between moments. In addition to being a Laguna Pueblo American Indian, Tayo is also a war veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; these two major characteristics affect Tayo’s relationship with time in a way that does not align with traditional Western storytelling. In Ceremony, the Laguna Pueblo belief in a circular timeline interacts with PTSD flashback symptoms in a way that creates a unique experience for the reader.

When read through the lens of Western culture, the chronology of Ceremony is both jarring and difficult to understand. The narrative does not rely on specific dates, and the timeline of the story comes together through context clues and inferences. For example, it is implied that the story must take place in the years surrounding World War II, as the opening paragraph references “Japanese soldiers shouting orders” (Ceremony 6) to Tayo. Later, it becomes clear that the story takes place within the year 1945 during Tayo’s interaction at the train station in which the depot man tells him “they’ve turned them all loose again. Sent them home. I don’t guess you could keep up with news very well in the hospital” (Ceremony 18) in regards to the Japanese-Americans. Although it is not ambiguous when the story is occurring, Silko never assigns a numbered date to any scene in the story, as per Laguna Pueblo storytelling tradition. This is even further explained by Silko in her article “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination,” in which she explains that “the precise date of the incident often is less important than the place or location of the happening. ‘Long, long ago,’ ‘a long time ago,’ ‘not too long ago,’ and ‘recently’ are usually how stories are classified in terms of time” (“Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination” 1009). For this reason, the narrative differs greatly from that of a traditional Western novel, as the latter tends to center stories around specific moments in time.

In an interview, Silko described the Laguna Pueblo experience of time by saying “think of time as an ocean always moving” (Silko Interview 1995). This fluid analogy for time explains the point of view, setting, and time shifts that happen consistently throughout Ceremony. One instance in which a time jump occurs is when Tayo is with Harley suffering from sunstroke in one moment, and then getting off the train at New Laguna in the next (Ceremony 29). Although this shift may seem unnatural in terms of narrative structure, it is actually an effective way to depict Tayo’s experience; the latter scene almost as an explanation for the former, as Tayo’s nausea when he is with Harley is more of a result of his PTSD following a war than it is of overheating. Another example of a meaningful rupture of linear chronology occurs when a scene of Tayo and Rocky hunting a deer is juxtaposed with the line “Harley slid another bottle of Coors across the table” (Ceremony 52). In this case, Silko is using the shift in order to emphasize how much Tayo has changed since the war. The first scene describes a sacred, Laguna Pueblo tradition in which the two brothers enact “the ritual of the deer” (Ceremony 52). The second is a much more sinister depiction of Native Americans, as it focuses on the alcoholism that often plagues the community. By placing these two scenes next to each other in the narration, Silko is able to emphasize the ‘witchery’ that is poisoning Tayo as a result of the war and his relationships with fellow veterans Harley and Emo. Moments like this one are crucial towards understanding the identity crisis that Tayo goes through as he struggles to find his place of belonging in the United States as a biracial Native American citizen.

The nonlinear timeline of Ceremony is also crucial to creating the effect of collective storytelling, which is a fundamental aspect of Laguna Pueblo storytelling. In Silko’s own words, “the ancient Pueblo people depended upon collective memory through successive generations to maintain and transmit an entire culture, a worldview complete with proven strategies for survival” (“Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination” 1007). For this reason, it is imperative that there are multiple points of view provided throughout the story in order to mirror the way in which the Laguna Pueblo tribe narrates history. One such narrative shift can be seen when Tayo is in the bar and Emo takes over the story and begins explaining, “White women never looked at me until I put on that uniform…” (Ceremony 40). Suddenly, in that moment, Tayo’s experience of the war is added onto by Emo. Immediately following Emo’s story, Tayo’s narrative contributes yet another point of view of the same situation: “The first day in Oakland he and Rocky walked down the street… and an old white woman rolled down the window and said, ‘God bless you, God bless you,’ but it was the uniform, not them, she blessed” (Ceremony 41). The combination of these scenes exemplify the tradition of collective memory. In addition, Silko weaves Emo’s story into Tayo’s in order to, once again, show how the Western world has the potential to poison the Native American experience‒Emo being a prime example of this tainted identity.

Tayo is also tainted by the Western world, but in a different way from Emo. While Emo glorifies his experiences from the war‒as seen in his retelling of stories of sexual experiences with white women (Ceremony 57-59)‒Tayo is forced back into painful memories of combat at random. While the others “repeated the stories about good times in Oakland and San Diego” in the bar, Tayo could not help but cry at the memory of Rocky’s death (Ceremony 43-44). These moments also give a unique voice to the experience of a Laguna Pueblo American Indian, since many fought in World War II and later suffered debilitating psychological trauma. Even seemingly innocent moments in his daily life, such as hearing Harley eating grapeseed have the potential to trigger Tayo because “the sound of crushing made him sick… He didn’t want to hear Harley crush the seeds” (Ceremony 45). The way in which Tayo experiences many moments in his life in the form of quick flashes is analogous with the way PTSD victims are often thrown back into the moments that caused their trauma.

However, Silko makes it clear that Tayo’s trauma is not permanent through another convention of Laguna Pueblo storytelling: the inclusion of traditional poems that detail timeless experiences. These poems are used to provide explanations modern events, such as warfare or the drought that is occurring throughout the story. Silko aligns the characters in Tayo’s story with the characters in the poems in a way that emphasizes the Laguna Pueblo tribe’s idea of time being circular and stories being repetitive. For example, the drought that Tayo believes he creates as a result of him “praying against the rain” (Ceremony 12) during the war is juxtaposed with a poem that describes a fight between Iktoa’ak’o’ya‒Reed Woman and her sister, Corn Woman. The poem explains, “Reed Woman / was always taking a bath… Corn Woman got tired of that… she scolded / her sister / for bathing all day long. / Iktoa’ak’o’ya‒Reed Woman / went away then… And there was no more rain then” (Ceremony 13). By aligning the modern-day drought with this poem, it is clarified that what Tayo is experiencing is not unprecedented, and that the drought is not his fault. In addition, the American Indians’ internalized shame for their roots is aligned with the ancient Laguna Pueblos who “were / so busy / playing around with that / Ck’o’yo magic / they neglected the mother corn altar” (Ceremony 48). Furthermore, Tayo’s journey in redefining his culture and identity is aligned with the story in which Hummingbird and Fly “flew to the fourth world” (Ceremony 82) in order to purify the town. By interspersing these ancient poems throughout her novel, Silko perpetuates her own idea of the “world as part of an ancient continuous story composed of innumerable bundles of other stories” (“Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination” 1007).

The story of Tayo and his attempt to come to terms with his identity in a post-World War II America is told in a way that mimics an oral history of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. Although many of the ancient stories can be relevant to modern experiences, the stark contrast between the effectiveness of Ku’oosh and Betonie’s rituals reaffirms the importance of adapting or adding onto traditions in order to accommodate new experiences. Due to the fact that, for Ku’oosh, “white warfare… was all too alien to comprehend” because “not even oldtime witches killed like that” (Ceremony 36-37), his ritual is not effective in curing Tayo of his trauma. Contrarily, Betonie is constantly collecting artifacts from the modern world and chooses to reside in Gallup and this allows him to better understand and accommodate modern trauma. Similarly, Tayo’s story acts as another addition to the collective memory of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and his experience helps to explain that of others who struggled with their identity in a modern America.

Works Cited

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: The Viking Press 1997. Print.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Interview by Thomas Irmer. Alt-X Berlin, 1995. Accessed 28 February 2017.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination.” On Nature. 57th ed.

New York, NY: Ecco, 1986. 1003-014. Print.

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The Role of Nature in “Ceremony”

April 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Silko’s Ceremony, Tayo’s healing process is very extensive, and he faces many crucial challenges in order to let go of traumatic past events. While on this journey, Tayo encounters many symbols that aid him in developing a sense of appreciation and freedom. As a Native American with a growing sense of tradition, Tayo finds that nature is a fundamental part of healing and simply of life in general. With the presence and importance of nature in her narrative, Silko communicates such empowerment and emotion to the reader, who is following Tayo through his long but necessary journey

Throughout this journey, the reader is meant to witness Tayo’s connection with different aspects of the natural world. Starting from the beginning of the novel, the reader sees how the significance of the jungle rain is tied together with not only Tayo, but also Rocky as well. The narrator states, “It was that rain which which filled the tire ruts and made the mud so deep that the corporal began to slip and fall with his end of the muddy blanket that held Rocky. Tayo hated this unending rain as if it were the jungle green rain and not the miles of marching or the Japanese grenade that was killing Rocky” (Silko 11). Tayo’s relationship with nature at this point is extremely inadequate. He sees nature as the reason that Rocky was dying, and this perspective casts a negative light over the natural world. Tayo feels aggravation and distrust towards the Earth and compares natural forces to the Japanese, who are the real reason that Rocky is hurt in the first place. The rain in this flashback is very much associated with the suffering that Tayo and Rocky go through during their time in the war.

Tayo’s relationship with the people he loves back in America also ties into the idea that he must become one with the natural world. Josiah’s impact on Tayo, for instance, is a significant piece of this journey. Josiah teaches Tayo about life and, even though he is dead, assists Tayo in his healing journey through memories. Josiah is the moral authority which Tayo obeys the most: “‘You see,’ Josiah had said, with the sound of the water trickling out of the hose into the empty wooden barrel, ‘there are some things worth more than money.’ He pointed his chin at the springs and around at the narrow canyon. ‘This is where we come from, see. This sand, this stone, these trees, the vines, all the wildflowers. This earth keeps us going’” (Silko 45). This recollection shows how Tayo learned much about the natural world from Josiah. He learns to respect and cherish the Earth; even though it may be something dull, it is comparable to a beautiful piece of art. Josiah teaches Tayo that there is so much more to life than material things. As Tayo realizes through remembering Josiah, the most important things in life are the Earth that he walks on and how he can connect with it in a deeper sense.

Towards the end of the novel, Tayo begins to regain his trust in the natural world. As Tayo begins to trust nature again, he learns that in order to properly heal he must become one with nature. The narrator states, “But lying above the benter that pulled him down closer felt more familiar to him than any embrace he could remember; he was sinking into the elemental arms of mountain silence. Only his skull resisted; and the resistance increased the pain to a shrill whine. … He could secure the thresholds with molten pain and remain; or he could let go and flow back. It was up to him” (Silko 201-202). During this time, Tayo is regaining his spiritual center through nature. He has become one with nature and is healing in a way he never thought imaginable. However, he does feel a resistance within himself, since his mind is attempting to ruin the progress he has made during his journey. This inner resistance and stubbornness tie back into his signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that the reader sees early on. The effort to achieve this healing is very personal and he cannot be impatient. Just like healing anything, healing wounds takes time.

The natural world was the most important help in Tayo’s healing process. After his long distrust of nature, with the help of his moral authority and experiences, Tayo was able to regain his center. The journey was long, but Tayo realizes that he was always strong enough to complete his healing; he just needed a bigger push. In Silko’s novel, the symbol of nature not only gives Tayo a sense of direction, but also makes him understand how he can heal from his past troubles.

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The Art of Poetry is Always Purposeful

February 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Leslie Marmon Silko’s poem, “Ceremony,” is a prime example of how poetry, even simpler to understand ones, can be productive. The poem is productive because it conveys a message: stories are powerful. The message a poem conveys can be used justly, or unjustly. Whether or not the poem is used to achieve good or evil, it is purposeful. On one hand, Plato in The Republic of Plato is against the poets because their works of poetry prove to be problematic in his Republic. His goal is to devise a perfect city and to do that he must set strict rules which dictate the behaviours of his people. Poets, in his opinion, create poetry that would be destructive if unmonitored in his city. On the other hand, Sidney in An Apology for Poetry defends poets and poetry by owning up to the charges against poetry. He claims that poetry has importance when it combines delightfulness and teaching together. Even though these two literary theorists have different opinions as to the question of poetry being good or bad, they both can agree that poetry is useful. People can learn acceptable behaviour and morals from reading poetry. Poems, then, can be used as a teaching device. Hence, even though Plato and Sidney have opposing perspectives regarding poetry, both literary theorists would agree that Leslie Marmon Silko’s poem, “Ceremony,” is purposeful.

Plato would find that the content of the poem purposeful for maintaining order in his Republic, while Sidney would value the poem’s utility; thus showing that poetry is productive as it can be used to teach desired behaviours and ideologies. Plato fears that poetry will ruin the hardy mentality he wants people in his Republic to have. As mentioned above, he wants the people in his Republic to behave and think a certain way to ensure a prosperous city. To dictate the ideologies of the citizens, influencing the young is one of the easiest approaches to this problem. Plato says that the beginning of any work is the most important, and that rule also applies to young children (Plato 54 377b). The reason why young children must be taken care of with great consideration is because “at that stage [they are the] most plastic, and [they] assimilate[e] [themselves] to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to [them]” (Plato 54 377b). In other words, children will behave and grow up based on the values or norms that they were first taught when they were young. In Book Three, Plato mentions two noble lies that only the makers of the city will know. The purpose of these lies is to promote courage and kindness towards everyone in the city while discouraging people from doing a role that is not fit for their souls. Taking into consideration his opinions regarding the plasticity of children’s minds and the noble lies he wishes to implore, readers can see why he fears poetry as much as he does. He fears that some works of poetry will ruin the mentalities of the young. The “young children [cannot] judge what is [the] hidden sense [in poetry]” and whatever message they take from poetry at that age will be “hard to eradicate and unchangeable” (Plato 56 378e). That is why Plato asserts that the makers of the city “must do everything to [en]sure that what they hear first, with respect to virtue, be the finest told tales for them to hear” (Plato 56 378e). He asserts that children cannot distinguish what is right or wrong yet when they read poetry. Consequently, they will not always be able to discover the virtues hidden between the lines of poetry. If they misinterpret the message of the poem, it can lead to disaster in Plato’s Republic because he would have a generation of children growing up contrary to how he wants every citizen raised. For instance, in “Ceremony,” the idea of the Thought-woman pre-determining everything in the world can be frightening to children. They may feel that their life and their actions are out of their control because the Thought-woman dictates everything that they are currently doing and will do in the future. The children can misinterpret the main message of the story and end up devaluing their ability to make choices. If the children grow up devaluing their freedom of will along with their choices, they may not work as hard, or protect the city with enough ferocity; which is why Plato would not want poetry that can convey wrong ideals being read by people in his Republic. Having citizens disregarding the purpose of the noble lies results in a disorganized and spiritless city. Thus, he only wants certain poetry with particular rules allowed in his city. To continue, poets are only allowed to portray the gods as the creator of the good things, and the bad things are created by other things that are not gods (Plato 57 379c). He even goes as far as making a law that speaking and producing poems cannot violate this rule: “the god is not the cause of all things, but of the good” (Plato 58 380c). Gods cannot be seen making war on other gods, or plotting against one another and having battles with each other either (Plato 56 378c). By having poetry depicting gods in disputes and having secret plans to overthrow other gods, it leaves an impression on the maturing children. Having poetry can deem wrongful behaviours acceptable as the children may be inclined to imitate this behaviour and replicate it in the future because if the gods can plot against one another and fight, they can do it too. Plato concludes that they “must supervise the makers of tales; and if they make a fine tale, it must be approved, but if it’s not, it must be rejected” (Plato 55 377c) and they will “not let the teachers use [unapproved poetry] for the education of the young” so that their “guardians are going to be god-revering and divine insofar as a human being can possibly be” (Plato 61 383c). In other words, poetry that breaks the rules Plato has created will result in less divine human beings because they would adopt unacceptable behaviour that would pit citizen against citizen in his Republic, thereby poisoning the harmony he tried so hard to induce. Hence, Plato does not want unapproved poetry to be allowed in the making of the best city because it will create undivine children that will one day grow up denying the two noble lies and have the wrong impression of acceptable behaviour.

While Plato frowns upon unapproved poetry, Sidney encourages poets to create poetry as they see fit to enhance, delight, and teach. He claims that only the poets can make things better than the forms nature can produce (Sidney 330). Sidney claims that the poet makes poetry that is above nature because they bring a new perspective that has not been seen before or were never found in nature in the first place. Furthermore, Sidney goes so far to say that nature is not nearly as beautiful as poetry. He says that “nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done” (Sidney 330). Nature is only beautiful when poets describe it, and without poetry, nature is bland. To continue, Sidney responds to earlier literary theorists, such as Plato, who have criticized poetry for being memetic. He does not refute those claims but instead backs up the positives of poetry being memetic. Admittedly, he says that poetry does imitate, but it imitates to teach as well as to delight. Without the two components combined together – teaching and delighting – poetry loses half its potential. If poetry taught but did not delight, then the lesson placed in their minds would fly away unlearned; and if poetry delights but not teaches, then they would be moved by the words but they would be moved without direction (Sidney 332). The poet then, “with his imitation [made] his own, beautifies it both for further teaching [and] delighting” (Sidney 339). Similarly, it is like lecturing a student continuously about morals. The lectures aim to teach the student, but since it does not delight him/her, the student may not take those lessons to heart and learn from them. On the other hand, running an activity meant to teach morals to the student but not debriefing the activities’ significance at the end is also as pointless as lecturing without delighting. Sidney’s argument can also be found in “Ceremony,” as there is both teaching and delighting embedded in the poem. The teaching aspect is found in the speaker’s defence of stories. The speaker claims that stories “[are not] just entertainment” (Silko line 3) as they are “all we have to fight off illness and death” (Silko line 6). Furthermore, “[one does not] have anything if [he/she] [does not] have stories” (Silko line 7-8). The speaker identifies stories as the only weapons that can fend off sickness and death. Without stories, one is susceptible to ailments that lead to death. The delightfulness in this poem is not found in the beautifully arranged or chosen words, but rather in the oratory voice that can be heard. There are humorous points in the poem where children would find delightful. For instance, the speaker rubs his belly and asks readers to put their hand on his belly to feel the stories moving (Silko lines 16-21). The oratory aspect and the engagement with the readers are what makes “Ceremony” delightful to read. Thus, a sense of warmth and trust is subsequently founded, which bridges the teaching and delighting aspects together – a concept that Sidney finds absolutely necessary. Contrary to what Plato thinks, Sidney says that poetry does not deceive and lie to younger or older readers. Plato thinks that poetry can be dangerous to children because they can learn inappropriate moral lessons as they do not have enough experience to judge for themselves what is virtuous or not. However, Sidney refutes that by saying that the poets affirm nothing, and therefore does not lie as “to lie is to affirm that to be true which is false” (Sidney 348). He continues to say that poets do not actually make readers believe what they write is true, and even children can distinguish what is real or not in poetry and plays (Sidney 349). Sidney is not wrong when he claims that poets do not lie. For example, in the poem “Ceremony,” the speaker says that the Thought-woman and her sisters created the universe just by thinking about it (Silko lines 26-28). No where in the poem does the speaker affirm that this is the absolute truth and readers must believe that this Thought-woman is real as it is simply a story that one would share with others. To conclude, Sidney defends the attacks on the art of poetry, making poetry more respected.

Although Plato and Sidney have different views on the art of poetry, they can both agree the Silko’s poem, “Ceremony,” is purposeful. Since Plato’s goal is to raise the people in his Republic with certain beliefs embedded from childhood, he would find “Ceremony” purposeful in achieving that goal. “Ceremony” could be one of those first tales that he would share with the children. Even though poems like Silko’s are, “as a whole, false,” there “are true things in them too.” Plato would be able to “make use of tales with children before exercises” (Plato 54 377a). Since the Thought-woman is the creator of all things and everything that is happening, he can use the poem to reinforce his noble lies. To have people believe they are all from Mother Earth, he would use the Thought-woman and say that she created them all, which makes them all brothers and sisters of the Republic. Moreover, to have people believe they have different metals in their soul that determines their place in society, he can say that the Thought-woman has thought of and given them the appropriate metal in their soul and that she knows exactly where they should be, thereby keeping the people satisfied with their place and have no intention of doing a job that they are not fit for. Similarly, Sidney would also find the poem “Ceremony” purposeful in teaching appropriate attitudes and behaviours. Though, instead of teaching for the sake of keeping harmony in a city, he would like how Silko’s poem teaches readers the importance of stories in a non-philosophically complicated way. He asserts that the philosopher teaches obscurely where only the educated can understand him/her. The poet, on the other hand, writes poetry so that everyone can absorb the lessons from the poem (Sidney 337). Sidney likes how the poet creates works that even the less educated can understand. Creating philosophical works with highly sophisticated language only teaches the educated people in society – the least in need of learning. Moral lessons should be easily read by even the less educated because they are the ones that can gain the most from it. The language in “Ceremony” is simple, and could be easily read and understood by anyone, including children, which both Sidney and Plato would like. While Sidney would like the simplicity of language as it can teach everyone the theme of the poem: stories are important and powerful, Plato would like the simplicity of language because it would be purposeful in teaching children the noble lies in his Republic. Therefore, even with different values placed on poetry, Plato and Sidney would find “Ceremony” purposeful in teaching readers ideologies derived from possible truths. Thus, poetry is purposeful as it can teach acceptable behaviour and ideologies to people of all ages and levels of education. Whether it is for dictating the mindset of citizens to maintain control, or for making philosophical ideas easier read and understood, poetry remains to have a purpose. Even the easy-to-read poem “Ceremony” by Silko has a purpose in teaching and instructing.

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The Absence of Identity, the Representation of Oppression: Concepts in Ralph Ellison and Leslie Marmon Silko

January 10, 2019 by Essay Writer

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko are entirely different, at least on the surface; they focus on two separate groups of people who progress through distinct journeys. In Invisible Man, the Invisible Man is searching for his identity as a nameless character wandering through life. Tayo, in Ceremony, struggles with his PTSD as well as his Native American lineage. Despite the contrastive plots of both stories, the characters convey the same message by the end: it is their responsibility to represent and speak for the “invisible”, as well as to teach the “blind” to see.

The last line of Invisible Man is an important part of the story because of its ambiguous meaning: “And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?” (Ellison 581). Because it does not have the capacity to hear low sounds, the human ear cannot discern low frequency noise. Therefore, the Invisible Man implies that he speaks for those who cannot be heard, metaphorically. An important aspect of Invisible Man is that the main character has no name. A name represents one’s heritage, which greatly affects the person one becomes later in life. Without a name, the narrator must search for an identity, whether that means recovering his old one or creating a new self. The message of the novel revolves around this character’s lack of identity; without one, he can be a representative for the masses, or for a specific group such as the black citizens of New York. In order for his character to be able to apply to all people, the author leaves out a multitude of events that transpire throughout the Invisible Man’s life, and the emotions he feels. In this way, the narrator can represent an abundance of people “on the lower frequencies.” He wants to be a voice both for people like him, who feel invisible — unseen and unheard — and for those who are blind and deaf to the invisible. He has an epiphany, realizing he must move on towards the future, even if it does not necessarily hold great things for him. The Invisible Man remarks, “I must shake off the old skin and come up for breath. There’s a stench in the air, which, from this distance underground, might be the smell either of death or of spring — I hope of spring” (580). Though still invisible and not knowing where the next journey will take him, the Invisible Man concludes that he must move on and must continue to live. Even after being ignored for so long, and after seeing so many people whose voices have not been heard, the Invisible Man feels he has a “socially responsible role to play,” (581). His responsibility is to embody the voices of the downtrodden and invisible people of the world.

The responsibility to speak for the repressed is also felt by Tayo in Ceremony. He yearns to accept his Native American lineage. Just like the “lower frequencies” in Invisible Man are ignored, the white people take no notice of the grievances of the Laguna Pueblo. The white people continue to expand and advance their society, while the pueblo people remain silenced and isolated in their own small world. At the story’s end, Tayo completes the ceremony, bettering his PTSD momentarily, and connects with the tradition and ancestry of his tribe. As a result of his partially successful self-healing, Tayo is able to shift his focus to the future. He can now live rather than just exist as the “white smoke” he was before (Silko 14). His whole life, he has known that living is hard; he now understands that living while being dead inside is much worse. Like the Invisible Man, Tayo “is invisible. His words are formed with an invisible tongue, they have no sound” (15). Because he has lost his identity, he cannot be seen or heard. He has no immediate family, like the Invisible Man, and his extended family all look at him with distain and shame because his mother slept with a white man. His skin shows that he is of mixed race and sets him apart from the people of the tribe.

However, by the book’s conclusion, Tayo wants to represent the Laguna Pueblo, despite his tainted genes. He reconnects with the Native American traditions after his ceremony and becomes confident in his past. He includes himself as a part of the tribe and is no longer embarrassed of his people’s ceremonies and rituals. Because of this newfound confidence, he can proceed to find his identity in the present. Just like the Invisible Man, Tayo’s journey’s end is unclear. Tayo completes the ceremony, rendering his PTSD “dead for now” (261), however he has no idea what the future will hold. Yet, the use of the word “sunrise” at the beginning and end of the book implies that Tayo is moving on to something, to a new journey, even not knowing what it is. Sunrises, just like spring, mentioned by the Invisible Man, represent rebirth and a new beginning. Tayo relates to the Invisible Man because, in the end, he is not only able to represent a group larger than himself, but is also able to look to the future rather than his troubled past.

Both the Invisible Man and Tayo advance through journeys to find themselves and end up telling a story that is relatable to other oppressed cultures. Both of their journeys end with confidence in the past, as well as hope for whatever the future may bring them. Divergent though they may seem, these two narratives almost literally circle back to a similar place: a position of worldly, hard-won optimism.

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