Ceremony

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Important Quotations Explained
1. Jungle rain had no beginning or end; it grew like foliage from the sky, branching and arching to the earth, sometimes in solid thickets entangling the islands, and, other times, in tendrils of blue mist curling out of coastal clouds. The jungle breathed an eternal green that fevered men until they dripped sweat the way rubbery jungle leaves dripped the monsoon rain. It was there that Tayo began to understand what Josiah had said. Nothing was all good or all bad either; it all depended. Explanation for Quotation 1 >>

One of the most important lessons Tayo learns in the course of the novel is that everything has both its positive and its negative aspects. This moment of realization comes early in the novel, as Tayo, newly returned to the reservation, remembers the most traumatic moments of his service in World War II, which include Rocky's death, at least in part from gangrene caused by the effect of the wet conditions on his wounds. Although this lesson is stated within the first fifteen pages of the story, its wording is key. Tayo does not understand the lesson; he only begins to understand it. It will take the rest of the novel for Tayo to come to a full comprehension of the intricate interrelations of all things. Although the message is simple, almost cliché, it cannot be taken lightly nor learned easily. Not only can the rain, so desperately prayed for on the desert reservation, be as bad as it is good, so also can whites, so detrimental to the Native American customs, also be an integral element in the ceremony that cures Tayo and his community. Although Josiah dies before Tayo returns from the Philippines, his teachings are among the most important in Tayo's life. As a child, Josiah was Tayo's male role model. Josiah initiated Tayo into Native American cosmology and also into the need to adapt to the ever-changing world, with the help of simple age-old lessons such as this one. Close

2. The word he chose to express "fragile" was filled with the intricacies of a continuing process, and with a strength inherent in spider webs woven across paths through sand hills where early in the morning the sun becomes entangled in each filament of web. It took a long time to explain the fragility and intricacy because no word exists alone, and the reason for choosing each word had to be explained with a story about why it must be said this certain way. That was the responsibility that went with being human, old Ku'oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said; and this demanded great patience and love. Explanation for Quotation 2 >>

Tayo returns home from the war both sick with malaria and deeply troubled on an emotional level. His stay at the Veteran's Hospital does little to help with the latter problem. Once home, as soon as he is well enough to get out of bed, Tayo's Grandma arranges for him to see the medicine man, Ku'oosh. Ku'oosh begins his ceremony by repeating to Tayo the names and locations of the places that are sacred to the Laguna, and the basis of their understanding of the world. With Spider Woman as one of the most important figures in Pueblo mythology, the metaphor of the web is most appropriate for describing their world-view. Throughout the novel, animals and plants serve as symbols of the deep connection the Pueblo people have with the natural world. Although the entire novel is written in English, we have been informed that in this section Ku'oosh speaks to Tayo "using the old dialect." Although we read English words, it is insisted upon that these are only a translation of the original language in which Ku'oosh's words are uttered. In addition, in that language the particular choice of individual words is of prime importance. As this is insisted on, the reader is reminded that although we can read and understand Ceremony, it does not offer us complete access to every element either of the...
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