Leslie Marmon Silko, “Lullaby”

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American Mosaic, July 2011

FOCUS: Leslie Marmon Silko, “Lullaby”

“Lullaby” is a short story that first appeared in a book entitled Storyteller in 1981. This was a book written by Leslie M. Silko that uses short stories, memories, poetry, family pictures, and songs to present her message. The book is concerned, in general, with the tradition of story-telling as it pertains to the Native American culture.

Lullaby seems to be a story of tradition, change, death, loss and the tensions fostered as a result of them between the old couple in the story and the Anglo-American authorities of the time. Throughout the story there are quite a few conflicts. Some are internal between Ayah and herself and others are external ones through Ayah, the white man, and Chato, her husband. The story is told by the main character, Ayah. She’s an old woman retracing tragic memories of life occurrences like the death of her son, Jimmie, in a helicopter crash during a war. She was not sure about what happened to him until a man in khakis drove up in a blue sedan and told her that he was dead and how he died. Jimmie was the one that taught Ayah to sign her name. She regrets this greatly as she relays the loss of her other two children who were taken by white doctors because they were thought to have a disease, allegedly given to them by their grandmother. They were taken because, in fear of the white men who were yelling and pointing for her signature, she “signed” the children away. Later on, when they were brought to visit, it was apparent the children were forgetting their customs and language; further evidence of the completeness of her loss. These events seem to have severely alienated Ayah towards Chato as well. Especially those specifically related to the children as indicated by, “She slept alone on the hill until the middle of November until the first snows came. Then she made a bed for herself where the children slept. She did not lie down next to Chato...
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