8 November 2008
The Whiteness of Ceremony
Throughout Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, there is a constant reminder of the “whiteness“ surrounding the Laguna Pueblos. Through this reminder, Silko proves that the Native Americans gain nothing but pain and sadness from this “whiteness.” The whiteness looms over the Pueblos like clouds over the plains. The “whiteness” shown in Ceremony is represented by the white smoke, the white people, and the white man’s war, are all symbols of the sense of nothingness.
The first example of “whiteness” is illustrated by Tayo, a half-breed Pueblo Indian and the protagonist of the novel, who was “mentally damaged after his time in the white man’s war” (Cutchins 77). His experiences left him unable to think clearly, and he kept flashing back to his experiences in the war. He was highly medicated at the veteran’s hospital. His thoughts were scattered into white smoke. The doctors had him heavily medicated for a while; “For a long time he had been white smoke” (Silko 13). The white smoke symbolizes nothingness “because white smoke had no consciousness” (Silko 13). His thoughts were white smoke. His body was white smoke. White smoke was nothing. He was nothing. The perfect example of white smoke and the nothingness that it embodies.
The white people themselves brought nothing but shame and misfortune to the Pueblos. Tayo’s half-blooded heritage brought shame to his family; “Since he (Tayo) could remember, he had known Auntie’s shame for what his mother had done, and Auntie’s shame for him” (Silko 52-53). White people would have meaningless sex that brought dishonor and shame. Tayo’s mother was a victim of this shame and because of it, her fellow Pueblos viewed her as nothing. One morning she stayed out until sunrise and came home completely naked except for her high heeled shoes and her purse... [continues]
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