English, Department of


Date of this Version

March 1996


Published in North Dakota Quarterly 63.2 (Spring 1996), pp. 138-152. Copyright 1996 by the University of North Dakota. Used by permission. Journal homepage: http://www.und.nodak.edu/org/ndq/


Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Ceremony is probably the most thoroughly analyzed recent work of Native American literature. Much of that analysis involves the various elements that contribute to the "ceremony" that heals the main character, Tayo, including such aspects as memory, animals, ritual, traditional stories, mythological characters, and both symbolic and literal landscapes. Critics have focused especially on the role of female figures and mythological characters such as Night Swan and Ts'eh. Such an emphasis is warranted since the roles of female and mythological characters in Laguna culture are probably the two important aspects in the story least familiar-and hence most baffling-to Euro-American readers. It is certainly appropriate for critics of a novel concerning the gynocratic Laguna Pueblo culture to pay substantial attention to the various feminine elements in Tayo's environment. Readers of the novel whose culture is patriarchal--which would be most readers-need to have the gynocentric matrix and implications of the novel delineated. But such a focus averts attention from the vital function fulfilled by a male and entirely human character, Tayo's Uncle Josiah, whose contribution to Tayo's "healing ceremony" is at least as important as that of any other figure in Tayo's life.