Ceremony

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Night Swan Character Analysis

A Mexican woman who Uncle Josiah loves. Night Swan was a cantina dancer all over the southwest, and was even run out of town for her “improper” relationships with men of other races. Night Swan represents another figure of cultural hybridity in the novel, moving easily between towns and settling where she feels most comfortable rather than where she is most accepted. Night Swan teaches Tayo about the power of his green eyes, explaining that she too has been the object of scorn for her place in the changing cultural face of the region. Night Swan remains confident in her own power, and makes choices for herself rather than for social acceptance.

Night Swan Quotes in Ceremony

The Ceremony quotes below are all either spoken by Night Swan or refer to Night Swan. 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 3 Quotes

They think that if their children have the same color of skin, the same color of eyes, that nothing is changing." She laughed softly. "They are fools. "You don't have to understand what is happening. But remember this day. You will recognize it later. You are part of it now."

Related Characters: Night Swan (speaker), Tayo
Related Symbols: Green Eyes
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Tayo delivers a note from Uncle Josiah to Night Swan, a Mexican woman with whom Tayo’s Uncle Josiah has formed a relationship. At Night Swan’s apartment, Night Swan sleeps with Tayo after telling Tayo that she has been watching him because of Tayo’s green eyes. Tayo scoffs, saying that the other people of the Pueblo community tease him for having lighter eyes than is normal for a Pueblo. Tayo’s green eyes come from his white father, and serve as a reminder that Tayo’s mother slept with a white man and weakened the cultural purity of the Pueblo tribe by introducing a “half-breed” child. Night Swan reminds Tayo that change is a necessary and inevitable part of human society, though close-minded communities may fear it. Though not all Pueblo people have green eyes, they all must deal with a new reality that includes white people.

By sleeping with Night Swan, Tayo also becomes part of a new future that lovingly embraces crossing cultural boundaries, instead of fearing it. By telling Tayo that he is “part of it,” Night Swan implies that Tayo has now joined a future that celebrates cultural diversity rather than remaining stuck to a dead-end vision of cultural purity. Night Swan helps Tayo see that his green eyes are an asset to this future, and not something of which he should be ashamed.

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Night Swan Character Timeline in Ceremony

The timeline below shows where the character Night Swan appears in Ceremony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 3
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
The Mexican Woman, called Night Swan , tells Josiah all about her past as a dancer in cantinas across the Southwest.... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
The people of Cubero do not entirely trust Night Swan , seeing her as a whore, but the men visit her often. The women of... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...take so much of Josiah’s time that he can no longer sneak away to see Night Swan . Josiah hires another ranch hand to help with the sheep camp while he focuses... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
...gather to watch the rain start falling. Josiah gives Tayo a note to deliver to Night Swan , as he was going to see her today but the rain means he has... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Tayo goes to Night Swan’s apartment in Cubero, hearing her Victrola play a Spanish record singing “y volveré” (I will... (full context)
Section 4
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...gets back to the bar, Harley is gone. Tayo walks to Cubero and sits on Night Swan’s stoop. Tayo remembers sitting here with Rocky when Lalo’s bar was still profitable. Tayo is... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Tayo tells Betonie about Night Swan’s hazel eyes and Auntie’s suspicions that Night Swan was evil all along. Betonie does not... (full context)