Ceremony

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Emo Character Analysis

Another Laguna war veteran who believes in the necessity of racial purity among Native people in order to escape oppression by white people. Emo hates all white people for the things they have stolen from Native Americans, planning to seek vengeance on white people by “stealing” white women. Though the novel affirms that white culture has negatively affected Native Americans, it does not condone Emo’s ruthless need for revenge. In fact, the novel portrays Emo’s bloodthirsty desires as the result of manipulation by the “witchery” that wants to destroy the entire world, which the novel uses as a metaphor for what it sees as the greed, selfishness, and disrespect of life and nature endemic to white culture. Emo drinks constantly, hates Tayo for his mixed blood, and ends up murdering three other veterans. Emo is eventually banished from the Laguna tribe for his actions, but never faces physical consequences – a fact that the novel holds up as a testament to Tayo’s commitment to refrain from the dominance-based ethos of white culture.

Emo Quotes in Ceremony

The Ceremony quotes below are all either spoken by Emo or refer to Emo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Ceremony published in 2006.
Section 2 Quotes

"They took our land, they took everything! So let's get our hands on white women!" They cheered… Maybe Emo was wrong: maybe white people didn't have everything. Only Indians had droughts.

Related Characters: Emo (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

When Tayo goes out drinking with Emo and the other Native American veterans, the topic of conversation often turns to the veterans’ sexual experiences with white women. For most of the veterans, sleeping with white women is a way to feel that they are included and accepted in white society. For Emo, sleeping with white women takes on a more sinister meaning. Emo wants to use white women as pawns to hurt white culture as pyaback for the hurt it has caused Native Americans by taking their land and making them powerless. Tayo too sees the disparity between the lives of white people and the lives of Native Americans. White people enjoy privilege, comfort, and wealth in America, such that Tayo feels white people have “everything” that Native Americans long for. White culture in America takes all the resources with no consequences, damaging Native American communities as well as the American land. Native Americans meanwhile are left to deal with the negative effects that the white commercial culture has on the environment. As Tayo notes, Native Americans are the ones who have droughts, with the implication being that white culture is wealthy enough to ignore the problem and continue their destructive methods.

While Emo is justified in feeling that he has been wronged by white culture, as Native Americans have been systematically oppressed and as a result struggle with poverty and addiction, the novel makes it clear that Emo’s response is incorrect. Fighting violence with violence will never actually solve the problem. Tayo takes a more measured approach, hoping to solve the drought that white people have caused instead of adding more pain to the world by bringing white people down.

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Section 7 Quotes

It had been a close call. The witchery had almost ended the story according to its plan; Tayo had almost jammed the screwdriver into Emo's skull the way the witchery had wanted, savoring the yielding bone and membrane as the steel ruptured the brain. Their deadly ritual for the autumn solstice would have been completed by him.

Related Characters: Tayo, Emo
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

At the climax of the novel, Tayo hides in an abandoned uranium mine while Emo tortures Harley just outside the opening. Emo truly wanted to kill Tayo, but contents himself with taunting Tayo by hurting Tayo’s friend. Enraged at this display of pointless pain and destruction, Tayo wants desperately to kill Emo with the rusty screwdriver he stole in case he had to fight in self-defense. Yet Tayo controls himself and does not attack Emo.

The novel identifies this moment as completing the ceremony that Tayo has been pursuing. He completes the ceremony not by acting, but by refusing to act. Not by punishing a monstrous person (and Emo is undoubtedly monstrous), but by refusing to respond to killing with more killing. The novel argues that fighting pain and destruction with more pain and destruction is a no-win situation that drags the whole world deeper into darkness. Instead, fighting pain and destruction with kindness and self-control balances out some of the “witchery” in the world.

The novel describes this “witchery” as the worst parts of human nature, embodied in white culture’s relentless pursuit of profit, self-importance, and victory above all else. Killing Emo would have satisfied Tayo personally, but it would not have helped the world recover from Emo’s evil actions. Tayo understands the larger implications of this conflict, reading his life as a story in which Emo represents evil and Tayo himself must represent good. As stories in the Pueblo tradition carry important morals, Tayo must ensure that his own story ends in a return to the harmony that preserves life rather than a descent into violence and death.

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Emo Character Timeline in Ceremony

The timeline below shows where the character Emo appears in Ceremony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 2
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Tayo goes out with Emo and Harley to a bar with some other war veterans. The war vets all spend... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
...the last time Tayo went to a bar and almost killed a fellow veteran named Emo. Tayo reassures Harley that he won’t be using any broken beer bottles as weapons tonight.... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
...laughs that Tayo was lucky not to go to jail for what he did to Emo. Tayo thinks back to the night he attacked Emo. Emo was sitting in a bar,... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...about how humans have the power to “create” water. When Tayo returns to his friends, Emo insults Tayo for being a half-breed with white blood. Tayo refuses to respond, thinking about... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...be Italian in order to sleep with a blonde woman. Pinkie and Leroy laugh at Emo’s story then tease Emo about the time a redhead found out he was really an... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Emo turns on Tayo and jeers at him for never telling any war stories. Emo then... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Tayo feels as if the alcohol is loosening his anger, rather than numbing it. As Emo continues to play with his bag of teeth, Tayo snaps a beer bottle under the... (full context)
Section 4
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Tayo starts to tell Betonie about Emo and Rocky, because he is reminded of them by the neon lights of Gallup spread... (full context)
Section 7
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
...the town any time soon. The others want Tayo to see a doctor again and Emo is spreading rumors that Tayo has gone completely crazy. Robert asks Tayo to consider coming... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...witchery can understand. Though the white people might easily get bored and leave Tayo alone, Emo will continue to push until he kills Tayo. (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Suddenly, headlights shine into the mine shaft and Tayo runs farther into the mine. Emo gets out of the car, and Tayo hears Pinkie and Leroy, but Harley is missing.... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...the mineshaft, and he begins to wonder how long he can last in there while Emo, Leroy, and Pinkie drink just outside. Suddenly, Pinkie slams a tire iron on the trunk... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...creeps closer to the bonfire and holds the screwdriver in his pocket. Tayo realizes that Emo is punishing Harley for failing to deliver Tayo to him. Leroy holds Harley down as... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Tayo begins to plan how he can kill Emo with the screwdriver. Leroy and Pinkie begin to scuffle with each other and Tayo knows... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Tayo looks back up to the stars, unchanging no matter the time or place, as Emo, Leroy, and Pinkie drag Harley’s body to the car. Tayo decides to gather the plants... (full context)
Section 8
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...day, Auntie comes home from church bursting with the news that Pinkie has been killed. Emo shot Pinkie in the back of the head as Pinkie was washing dishes at the... (full context)