“Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko: Full Free Essay Example

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 15th, 2020


This text is a full and free example of the essay on “Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko. Silko is a famous American writer and the key figure in the First Wave of the so-called “Native American Renaissance.” She was awarded by the first MacArthur Foundation Grant in 1981. In 1994, she received the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award.

Leslie Marmon Silko is the author of numerous novels, poems, and short stories about love and nature. “Ceremony,” published in 1977, is her most well-known novel. Her other publications include Laguna Women: Poems (1974), Storyteller (1981), etc. The free online Leslie Marmon Silko list of works can be found here.

Summary of “Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko

In her novel “Ceremony”, Leslie Marmon Silko tells a story about Tayo, the main character in the novel. He needs to adjust to his environment after he came home from the war. Tayo experiences numerous problems because he lived as a prisoner in Japan. This affects him bodily and emotionally.

Tayo worries about how he will interact with his family in Laguna Pueblo and his mixed culture problems since he was half-White and half Native American. According to Tayo’s family members, they believe that the only solution to his problems is through practicing Native American rituals that will help him to become an average person. Finally, Old Betonie applies various rituals to ensure that the Native American ceremonies give Tayo peace (Silko 2).

In Ceremony, different things happen, and Tayo participates in each one, which acts as a manner of getting him back with his Native American culture. The “Ceremony” novel talks about the celebration of separate brief ceremonies, and this describes why the story itself is a ceremony. In the novel’s plots, the author chooses various ceremonies as they either start or end.

To Tayo, these ceremonies were a transitional stage since ancient times in Pueblo. The community members performed rituals after the warriors return from fighting because they avoided stains caused by fighting destruction (Walther 9).

Leslie Marmon Silko as a Storyteller

Storytelling is an aspect that happens to human beings because they are capable of using words to pass information amongst individuals and generations. The concept of storytelling is only possible for people because the trial of teaching non-human creatures failed.

According to the Ceremony, the word story refers to factors that contribute to the identification of a story. A story can be either real or fictitious, contains true situations or fantasy. Therefore, a story provides the narrator or writer with the freedom to explore any genre around the world. The analysis shows that the novel “Ceremony” backs this concept because it contains all forms of freedom in telling its stories (Walther 3).

In the novel, storytelling focuses on how the Native American traditions used to tell stories.

Previously, all the Native American cultures on biology, history, morality, medicine, among others, transferred among different generations through storytelling in their culture. The title of an “official storyteller” belonged to the elders who made storytelling to become a famous event. The main goal of storytelling is to transfer information among generations. Stories are rhythmic.

Indeed, they have repetition and sometimes presented in the custom of a song. In the novel “Ceremony”, these ways of storytelling occurred as a poem, which surrounded the novel narrative in both the beginning and end. The stories told in the novel Ceremony about Pueblo culture are real stories that exist outside the context (Walther 3).

In Ceremony, there is a narration of different brief stories, which include stories on war told by Harley, Emo among other soldiers. We also see Old Betony and Night Swan tell part of their stories as Tayo claims to remember a story that Rocky told him. Old Betonie claims that there is a time that Tayo’s aunt distracted him during a part of the story. At the start of the novel, it ensures that the whole narrative in it represents a story.

Within the novel, the author indicated that storytelling ranked to be the primary matter compared to other ethical concerns entailed in the story. From the story, it is true that from stories told by other people, “Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko shows to be extraordinary because it resulted in significant changes, which changed the modern world. In addition to that, it shows that stories are capable of curing as they create rituals and formalities, which enhance individual and community healing (Domina 9).

As the novel starts, Tayo’s grandmother communicates with Tayo’s aunt, and she tells her how she is aware of bad stories regarding an individual who was gossiping about them. The writer says that Tayo’s aunt feels happy about the fact that other people gossip about her family, after her conversation Tayo’s grandmother, she now understands why her story instigates the many gossips regarding her family.

Here, one recognizes that a shared story through two persons creates a sense of community between them because they both understood why people were gossiping about their family.

Before the end of this narrative in the “Ceremony” novel, Tayo’s grandmother tells two ceremonial poems. It happens after showing a story on how Pinkie died in Emo’s hands, while she got bored because she had repeatedly heard the story. The quote below illustrates this fact.

She says, “It seems like I already heard these stories before”…. “The only thing is the names sound different” (Silko 260). That means how different people usually narrate the same story to her (Domina 10)

In the novel Ceremony, storytelling enhances the quality of the narrative. For example, during the scalp ceremony, Ku’oosh told Tayo “this World is fragile,” (Silko 35), in clarifying the meaning of the world is weak, Ku’oosh uses different stories to elaborate sense in his statement and according to the novel, and this shows how storytelling leads to affect narratives. These stories were also crucial to Tayo after returning from war as they erased all the painful memories that he had regarding the war and his prison life in Japan.

“Ceremony” by Leslie M. Silko as an Autobiography

Leslie Marmon Silko, in the novel Ceremony, tells a story of her life. As a matter of fact, she says that she is originally from the Pueblo community found in New Mexico. Silko identifies herself to be a Native American, and her culture highly values storytelling. She insists that the purpose of writing her novel was to enhance her life and categorize the Native American foundation in her.

Furthermore, she highlighted the differences that existed in the Native American and White cultures. Here, Silko asserts that for Tayo to balance with his mental state, he should formulate stories that support both cultures of his origin (Silko 12)

In Ceremony, Leslie Silko does not apply mythic stories and requires the reader to link these stories to the personality of the persons in the novel. Indeed, Silko intended to involve readers to participate in the creation of her written stories. The strengthening of storytelling as a theme in the novel Ceremony shows where Silko uses different types of storytelling narratives in the novel (Walther 9).

The entire novel narrates Tayo’s story. The book indicates that Tayo is a Native American but with two different origins from Laguna Pueblo. The novel tells a story of how Tayo is stressful because of some issues that Tayo faced from his childhood and the experiences he encountered in war. The book tells us the recovery of Tayo from his problems through practicing different native American cultures, such as practicing rituals and ceremonies.

In conclusion, the field of storytelling is an exciting part of literature. Indeed, it has been on study for quite some time now. Different individuals conduct studies concerning the subject; for example, Walter made a research to establish the differences between oral and written storytelling. Ruth Finnegan also studied the differences that exist between oral and morality. These researchers have also discussed the benefits of storytelling to languages, cultures, and writings.

That is why people should note and apply storytelling in the world because of its benefits. For example, in the novel Ceremony by L.M.Silko, storytelling played different roles, which includes offering powers to cure. Indeed, from storytelling, Tayo realized that the only solution to his problems was through practicing rituals and ceremonies, which was storytelling.

Ceremony combines the Western narrative methods and Native American legends that were largely derived from Pueblo and Navajo sources. Both prose and poetry are used in telling the events, and poetry is reserved for the Native American version of the narrative as connected by the Thought-Woman, who predicts, “the only cure is a good ceremony.” Tayo, in the novel, is a World War II veteran, and he is both white and Laguna.

He is estranged from the Native Americans and the white culture. His cousin Rocky died in the Philippines, and his death was haunting him. The government only noticed the cousin with other Native Americans in times of war. The government needed them to fight for the land that was already taken from them. There was a likelihood that Tayo would become a crazy Indian descending into the same alcohol-ridden fate like his mother, before being healed by the ceremony that was conducted by Old Betony and Shush.

The journey to the mountain was essential to Tayo since it would heal him, and it was also of great cultural importance. Tayo had visited the traditional healer who was the Laguna elder but was never healed. He also visited the modern hospital in Los Angeles, and still, he did not recover. The Old Betonie’s healing worked, and this was because he recognized the need to change and adapt to the old ceremony (MacGowan, 305).

Silko employs the narrative and spiritual heritage of the Laguna to show the struggle between dissimilar cultures towards the natural world instead of racial hostility. In the novel, the whites despise the kind of relationship that the Indians have with nature. The whites’ domination of the natural world confronted the Indian’s relationship with nature, which was reciprocal.

In Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, nature is the contested ground between the two cultures. To restore the conflict, Silko’s mixed-blood protagonist re-creates cultural Laguna stories and ceremonies that contradict the destructive thoughts of the whites. The novel explores injustice, racism, and other connected issues to get the attention of the whites, even if it addresses the Native people. Silko’s work stresses the significance of the community.

His cousin Rock is doomed after being uprooted from the community. On the contrary, Tayo was able to reconnect to the community, and hence he was saved. Disgusted by the exploitation of the American Indians, Silko uses subversive writing to defend the individuals from the native cultures (Chavkin 13).

“Ceremony” novel transforms a certain kind of healing ceremony and a more significant prophecy to cure cultural illness. The novel reflects a Deena Metzger’s response that we suffer from the world fatigue from cultural self-loathing. The story connects sick individuals to the sick world.

In a pattern and culture of medicine women, Silko takes the people reading the novel on a journey into her wellness narrative so that they can connect with the healing ceremony. Silko perceives herself as an instrument of narratives, which are derived from the spiritual foundation. That is why within the context of her own culture, which is Laguna Pueblo, she functions as a healer by relating to the Thought Woman’s story, and the novel progresses as a chant to heal the cultural disease.

Through Tayo’s healing in the novel, Silko revives a traditional tale in modern time. Silko went ahead to employ a specific Amerindian therapeutic tradition to reconstruct this tale. However, she is still faithful to the cultural imperatives of Native American states to find other ways to tell old stories anew (Wilentz 82).


“Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko reminds its readers about the European and the European American representations of New Mexican natives, by re-imagining local stories and connecting them with the white stories. In the novel, Tayo is the first victim of the Western talk, which articulates Indians as violated objectives presences instead of subjective agents of their destinies.

Tayo is both Laguna and Anglo, so he had to learn to balance between the native culture and the Western culture to survive in New Mexico. His first identity is influenced by the modern world. He must read the native stories and re-constellate them into the modern, which have been affected since he and his people have forgotten the stories that remind them of their identity in the world.

The authoritative Western claims fill this articulated space to knowledge claims, which does not connect the individuals with the community. It is vital to know that the current New Mexican natives constructions of reality have traces of the Western talks since the West has been affecting New Mexican natives from the sixteenth –century Spanish incursion into the New Mexico.

Tayo’s responsibility is to recover a balance among competing stories to sustain his story and his people’s story. Tayo’s account of the separation from the self and this community is a microcosm of the instability of the world, and New Mexico plays a vital part in the story (Dean 146).

Annotated Bibliography

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2007. Print

In the novel, Tayo is the main character who underwent many problems when he was a prisoner in Japan. He was both Native American and white, and his mixed culture made it intricate for him to cooperate with the affiliates of his community. The experiences that Tayo had during the war made him sick psychologically and bodily. The people of his community believed that if they performed some Laguna rituals, Tayo would recover. The Old Betonie performed the ceremony to make Tayo have peace.

Dean, John. Travel Narratives from New Mexico: Reconstructing Identity and Truth. Amherst, N.Y: Cambria Press, 2009. Print.

In the literature, the native stories are linked with the white stories. Being a Laguna and an Anglo, Tayo had to ensure he was balancing the Western and the Native culture to ensure his survival in Mexico. The initial identity of Tayo was affected by the modern world, and to remind him of the lost identity, he had to read the native stories.

Domina, Lynn. Understanding Ceremony: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print

The review argues that the novel contains various stories told by different people. The people who told their stories were Harley, Emo, Old Betony, and Night Swan. In the literature, storytelling was very significant compared to other ethical issues. Among the stories told in the novel, Tayo’s story was very different because he was influenced by modern culture.

From the novel, stories are essential to the community because of their capabilities to heal. Additionally, the community believed that when two people tell each other stories, the bond between community members becomes stronger.

MacGowan, Christopher. The twentieth-century American fiction handbook. Oxford( u.a); Willey-Blackwell. 2010. Print.

The writer shows the combination of the techniques of storytelling of the Native Americans and the whites. In Tayo’s community, the pros and the poems were used in describing the events. Being white and Laguna caused his alienation from the Laguna and the white culture.

The Native Americans were only seen as important people during the war since the government needed them to fight for their land. In the novel, Tayo’s cousin died during the war, and he was haunted by his cousin’s death. Tayo was sick, and he visited the modern hospital and some traditional healers, but he was not cured. The only person who cured Tayo was the Old Betony, and it was because of his recognition of the importance of adapting the old ceremony.

Chavkin, Allan. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony: A Casebook. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002. Print.

Laguna’s spiritual heritages that are used in the novel show the differences in the native and the white culture. The individuals from Western culture do not like how the Indians relate to nature. In the restoration of the cultural conflict, Silko’s mixed-culture re-creates the native culture stories and ceremonies to dissolve the negative thoughts of the whites. The writer explores injustice to get the attention of both cultures.

Walther, Berenice. Storytelling in Leslie Marmon Silkos̕ Ceremony. München, Ravensburg: Grin Verl, 2006. Print.

In the story, Silko does not employ the mythic stories, but she wants the readers to connect the book to make the readers partake in creating the written stories, to make them appear as they are being narrated orally. Storytelling is the theme of the novel, and this is shown when Silko uses various storytelling techniques.

Wilentz, Gay. Healing Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-Ease. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2000. Print.

In the novel, cultural illnesses were healed by the ceremonies. If one reads the book, he sees how the natural world problems are connected to the sicknesses of individuals. Silko’s narratives were derived from the spiritual culture of the Laguna. By writing, the healing novel Tayo makes the traditional stories to revive in the current times.

Work Cited

Chavkin, Allan. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony: A Casebook. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002. Print.

Dean, John . Travel Narratives from New Mexico: Reconstructing Identity and Truth. Amherst, N.Y: Cambria Press, 2009. Print.

Domina, Lynn. Understanding Ceremony: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print

MacGowan, Christopher. The twentieth-century American fiction handbook. Oxford(u.a); Willey-Blackwell. 2010. Print.

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2007.Print

Walther, Berenice. Storytelling in Leslie Marmon Silkos Ceremony. Munchen, Ravensburg: Grin Verl, 2006. Print.

Wilentz, Gay. Healing Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-Ease. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2000. Print.

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Further Study: FAQ

What are the main themes of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko?

There are a number of themes in the Ceremony. The theme of the Interconnection talks about how all things in our world interact and affect each other. There is also a very important theme of Native Americans, their culture, and tradition.

When was the Ceremony by Silko written?

Leslie Marmon Silko wrote the Ceremony in 1977. As a Native American woman, she highlighted the traditions of Navajo and Pueblo people. Penguin published the novel in March of the same year.

What is Tayo’s ceremony?

Tayo’s ceremony happens at the end of the novel. Tayo becomes initiated into Laguna culture that promotes life and appreciation of our world. Because of his mixed heritage, Tayo’s perception of Laguna culture provides us with an objective view on that culture.

Where does the ceremony take place?

The ceremony takes place in a Native American Reservation. The most events of the novel happened in Laguna Reservation, in the Southwest of the United States. Some parts, however, were set in the Philippines and in the unknown land.

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