Indian History in the “Ceremony” Novel by Silko
The novel Ceremony, published in 1977, is rightly considered Silko’s best work to date. The theme of the one-sided military experience of the Indians naturally merges in the book with the theme of bitterness over the lost land, with the rejection of which all the social rights of the “native Americans” were threatened. As Tayo moves from chaos to harmony through “ceremony” – ritual cleansing from evil and suffering – Silko unfolds the historical turning point that occurred in the minds of the Indians in post-war America (Gale, Cengage Learning 54). It was a difficult and long process of gaining a spiritual identity. The mood of Silko’s world is bright – Ceremony seems like a majestic hymn to the forces of life, their struggle against the forces of evil, decay, and death. It is obvious that the author finds healing in this precisely in returning to the roots and restoring self.
In the ending of the novel, the choice of Tayo to reunite with the pueblo leads to healing not only for the character himself, but also for the community. Only through learning about his own culture and embracing it, is Tayo able to find close the gap that he is meant to cover as part of this society. He can thus contribute to the Pueblo and make it better off. The author sees the last means of saving Tayo in the healing power of folk wisdom – a “ceremony” that realizes the magic of folk parables, myths, and songs. Silko colorfully describes how, with the help of the sage Betoni, the hero comprehends his place in the historical cycle. In his mind, the legendary past of the Indians, the war, and modernity fall into place.
Tayo begins to understand that there is no chaos in the world but only connections and interdependencies. His previous state of rejection from nature was just a severe mistake that needs to be corrected. The character realizes that he himself is not the center of the universe but only a part in the collision of the universal forces of destruction and creation. This comprehension was given to him by the author through familiarization with nature.
Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Leslie Silko’s “Ceremony.” Gale, Study Guides, 2017.