Ceremony

Harley Character Analysis

Tayo’s friend and a fellow war veteran. Harley is an alcoholic who tries to find the joke in every situation, which the novel portrays as an attempt to hide from the emptiness of his life. Harley loved being in the military because when in uniform he was respected by white Americans, and has trouble adjusting to the “normal” discrimination against Native Americans that he once again faces after the war is over. Harley continues to drink because the alcohol gives him a brief respite from the pain and anger of his life after the trauma of war, even though the drink itself is a self-destructive practice. Harley is murdered by Emo after Harley fails to betray Tayo to Emo.

Harley Quotes in Ceremony

The Ceremony quotes below are all either spoken by Harley or refer to Harley. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Ceremony published in 2006.
Section 4 Quotes

He was thinking about Harley and Leroy; about Helen Jean and himself. How much longer would they last? How long before one of them got stabbed in a bar fight, not just knocked out? How long before this old truck swerved off the road or head-on into a bus?

Related Characters: Tayo, Harley, Leroy, Helen Jean
Page Number: 155-156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Harley Character Timeline in Ceremony

The timeline below shows where the character Harley appears in Ceremony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Tayo goes outside and sits under an elm tree. Tayo’s friend Harley rides up on a black burro, making slow progress as the burro resists Harley’s direction.... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Tayo is content to sit with Harley in silence, but Harley is restless. Harley jokes about how they have it easy now... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Since the incident with the sheep, Harley’s family tries to keep him away from bars and beer. Yet Harley always finds a... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Tayo and Harley set off for the closest bar, as the wind blows constantly. The burro tries to... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...Thinking of Rocky makes Tayo start to cry and he falls off the gray mule. Harley helps Tayo up and pretends that Tayo is just suffering from sunstroke. Tayo blames his... (full context)
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 their disability... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...half-breed status to “speak for both sides,” and call out white people for their prejudice. Harley and Leroy force Tayo to sit back down, noticing that the rest of the bar... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Back in Tayo’s present, Harley checks to see if Tayo is feeling better yet after his “sunstroke” attack. Harley tries... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Harley and Tayo continue toward the bar on their burro and mule. They finally flag down... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Back in the bar, Harley jokes with Tayo about how quiet Tayo is, though Tayo knows that Harley is really... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
In the bar, Harley laughs that Tayo was lucky not to go to jail for what he did to... (full context)
Section 4
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Returning to Tayo’s present, Tayo leaves Harley with yet another beer and walks out of the bar. Tayo looks toward the sacred... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
When Tayo gets back to the bar, Harley is gone. Tayo walks to Cubero and sits on Night Swan’s stoop. Tayo remembers sitting... (full context)
Section 5
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...witchery. As Tayo walks away from the gas station, stepping carefully to avoid killing grasshoppers, Harley rides up in a truck. Another veteran, Leroy, and a woman, Helen Jean, are in... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Tayo gets in the truck with Harley, as Helen Jean and Leroy laugh about how Harley tricked the car salesman to give... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...stumbles getting out of the car and drops all her makeup out of her purse. Harley picks it up for her, playacting at putting some on while Leroy and Tayo tease... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...journey to find the cattle, but it is really the bartender throwing Tayo, Leroy, and Harley out after Harley got in a fight with the Mexican men. Tayo gets Harley and... (full context)
Section 7
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
...Ts’eh out to the road. He thinks back to the year before, when he and Harley rode down this road on a burro and a mule. This time, the surrounding country... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...walks north as the sun rises, then hears a truck rumble behind him. It is Harley and Leroy in the truck and Tayo is ecstatic to see his friends when he... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Harley leans out the window, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and dark glasses. He and Leroy are... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Harley says that he and Leroy have been driving around all night after starting at a... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
A while later, Tayo wakes up in the truck, with Harley and Leroy gone. Tayo gets out of the car and sits on a lava rock.... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...the mine. Emo gets out of the car, and Tayo hears Pinkie and Leroy, but Harley is missing. The men build a bonfire outside the mine shaft and Tayo wonders if... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...iron on the trunk of Emo’s car. From the screaming that results, Tayo realizes that Harley is tied up in the car. Pinkie drags Harley out of the car, strips him... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...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 Pinkie cuts off... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
...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 for Ts’eh, plant them safely,... (full context)
Section 8
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Harley and Leroy were found together off the road from Paguate hill, their bodies dismembered enough... (full context)