"Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko. Literary Essay Sample

Published: 2022-03-11
"Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko. Literary Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Course work
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 665 words
6 min read

The novel Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko tells a story about the experience of a World War II veteran known as Tayo when he was going back to his home at the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. Since he was sick from what the doctors alleged to be shell-shock, Tayo undergoes a healing ceremony where the writer embarks on a journey to reveal some of the rituals that Laguna Indians performed. "Nothing was all good or all bad either; it all depended," (Chavkin & Chavkin, 2007, p.23) Tayo learns that everything has both its negative and positive aspects after experiencing the traumatic memories after the war. After returning from the war, Ku'oosh, the traditional medicine man tries to heal Tayo from his war sickness, but he is unable because his warrior ceremony is outdated.

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Betonie's Ancestry and Ethnicity

Old Betonie is represented as the Navajo medicine man who carries out the ceremony that leads to the healing of Tayo. Betonie tells Tayo that, "I had been watching them from the hills up here all my life," (Chavkin & Chavkin, 2007 24). This suggest that he lives in the hills where he is surrounded by junk while he views the ceremonial grounds situated in Gallup. Due to his way of living along with his hazel eyes as well as the eccentric ceremonies, other people fail to trust him. In that, Betonie's green eyes and her Mexican grandmother represents his own connection to hybridity (Chavkin & Chavkin, 2007). The author provides him with the power and wisdom that assisted Tayo toward the future for Native persons that depended on the old traditions and at the same time adapting to the new ways of the "white culture" in America.

Despite Betonie being feared by other Navajo of Gallup, his only concern is the ultimate well-being of the earth rather than the aspect of being comfortable with everyone. Nonetheless, Betonie discovers that Tayo is also hesitant when they met for the first time. Betonie tells Tayo that, "Some people act like witchery is responsible for everything that happens, when actually witchery only manipulates a small portion." (Chavkin & Chavkin, 2007 27). This suggest that not all the things in the world have an explanation. However, Tayo can understand Betonie's good heart which was witnessed through the old man's eccentricities. Therefore, Betonie plays the role of the patient agent for change in the novel, with the motives of benefiting the Southwest region as opposed to causing destruction.

Betonie's grandfather Descheeny, together with the Mexican woman, and the medicine man together started the conception of the new ceremony that had the power to heal the world from the destruction brought about by the whites. He was among the pioneers who suggested the need for collaboration among Mexicans and the Native Americans. Subsequently, The Mexican girl from the novel is Betonie's grandmother. Just like a Mexican woman such as Night Swan, she reflects the miscegenation of white and Native American traditions. She appeared to be informed even when she was a young girl; she began the new ceremony together with Descheeny. Nonetheless, she brings up Betonie and ensures that he gains the necessities required to continue the ceremony.

To sum, Betonie is a Navajo medicine man who successfully heals Tayo from his illness by mixing traditional rituals with new multicultural components. The author, Silko seek to illuminate the suffering of bicultural persons in instances where the society may be hostile and discriminating to the individuals who are commonly referred to as "other." The Mexican woman provides insightful explanations for the discriminating behavior by explaining about the fear that is tangled amidst the web of troubles that are found in the Native American Culture. Therefore, Betonie is the link between the real and the mythical worlds. He spends most of his time in trying to develop a relationship with spirits and narratives that other persons do not have access.


Chavkin, A., & Chavkin, N. F. (2007). The Origins of Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony. Yale University Library Gazette, 82(1/2), 23-30.

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