Characterization and Symbolism in “Yellow Woman”
In the short story “Yellow Woman”, Leslie Marmon Silko uses characterization and symbolism to address personal and cultural identity.
After reading “Yellow Woman”, a sense of mystery is imposed on the reader. Much of the story centers on the identity of the two main characters with issues of duty and desires, social obligations, and the human and spiritual worlds. Taking place in 1970’s New Mexico, the author reveals the aesthetic beauty of a Native American homeland and culture through detail and color. The story begins with an ambiguous protagonist/narrator identified as Yellow Woman who is trapped between a dreamlike world and reality. Her naivety is revealed at the start when she meets a mysterious man named Silva and allows him to wisp her away to the mountains where they make passionate love. Yellow Woman says, “I turned to face him. ‘Who are you?’ I asked” (Silko 762). The narrator conflicts with herself, questioning who she is, the man she met, and whether or not she should return home to her obligations or indulge in a facile world that could never be. With her uncertainty, Yellow Woman calls to mind a myth that was told to her by her grandfather about a young woman who was taken by a ka'tsina spirit to live with him. The narrator questions whether or not she really is Yellow Woman and would she be willing to live life as her or return to her pueblo to fulfill her duties as a mother and wife. According to the narrator, “He pulled me around and pinned me down with his arms and chest. ‘You don’t understand, do you, little Yellow Woman? You will do what I want’” (Silko 765). Yellow Woman listens and indulges in Silva’s affection and doesn’t resist to his motives. Since she began her domestic life, she has not been able to experience acting out of impulsivity. The woman is experiencing a feeling that many people feel when they get married and start a family. The narrator acts instinctual at the...
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