The following essay, “All It Takes Is One Good Ceremony,” is an example of a sound discussion that focuses on one luminous detail – the color blue. All It Takes Is One Good Ceremony
Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel, Ceremony, is filled with numerous networks of images. The most notable images are bathed in the color blue and are found in the natural and unnatural worlds, as well as the spiritual and physical worlds. The color blue abounds in the story of Tayo’s journey. Tayo has just come back from a Japanese Prisoner of War camp and the novel Ceremony gives us glimpses into Tayo’s quest to be healed. There is an emotional and spiritual crisis going on within Tayo, which is evident in his physical condition; however, Tayo’s quest is not only a result of something physical. Spiritually, Tayo appears to have been chosen by the elders of the Laguna tribe to eradicate the resulting shame of what the white man has done to the Indian: “But now the feelings were twisted, tangled roots, and all the names for the source of this growth were buried under English words, out of reach. And there would be no peace and the people would have no rest until the entanglement had been unwound to the source” (Ceremony 69). The healing process is directed by a ceremony and the color blue is instrumental to this ceremony. Every time the color blue is seen in the novel it is part of the evolving ceremony and is most often used to protect Tayo on his journey. Throughout Ceremony, Tayo reflects upon the color of the sky. The brilliance, or lack thereof, of the blueness of the sky is significant to Tayo’s journey: “The sky was hazy blue and it looked far away and uncertain” (19). In this initial reference, the haziness of the blue sky is symbolic of the haziness of Tayo’s mental condition. Unbeknownst to Tayo, the ceremony is just about to begin. Interestingly, woven throughout the novel, another story is taking place in the form of a poem. The poem explains how the Indian world got into such a state of imbalance and reveals how that world can, and does, return to a state of harmony. This poem provides the spiritual chanting that will eventually cleanse Tayo, and, as a result, all of the Indians. Blue cornmeal is first seen in the ceremony as a way to appease K’oo’ko, the magician: “That’s why / they had things / they must do / The flute and dancing / blue cornmeal and / hair washing “ (38). In this passage, Old Grandma sees that Tayo’s illness is far from physical; rather, his symptoms result from the spiritual debate that is going on within Tayo. She holds him in her lap and chants “A’moo’oh, a’moo’oh” over and over again. Grandma is readying Tayo for the ceremony. Grandma sends for Ku’oosh, a medicine man of sorts. Ku’oosh sets a bag of blue cornmeal on the chair in Tayo’s room. He pulls his blue cap over his ears. Grandma brings Tayo a bowl of blue cornmeal mush. She feeds Tayo the mush spoonful by spoonful. And so the ceremony, facilitated by the color blue, begins. It is important to note that for much of the ceremony, Tayo is a passive participant. Those around him lead him through the ceremony. Tayo is watched expectantly. He is watched by the elders who hold onto the old ways and recognize Tayo’s importance for the survival of those of old ways. He is watched by his aunt who represents the quest for assimilation and acceptance into the white world. He is watched by friends who care about him mental well-being. Most importantly, he is watched by the Destroyers who want to keep the Indians in their present condition. Harley, a good friend of Tayo’s, is symbolic of those who seek solace and distraction in a bottle. Both Harley and Tayo represent the many young Indian men who have lost touch with the ancient stories and ways of their people. So when Harley leads Tayo, Harley is unaware of his own involvement with the ceremony. Harley doesn’t understand Tayo’s reaction to the...
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