Leslie Marmon Silko

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Themes and Colors
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Ceremony, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Interconnected World

A major theme in Ceremony tracks the ways that each aspect of the Earth interacts with and affects everything else. For their own well-being, Tayo, and the other human characters have to learn how to be in harmony with the people around them, the environment, and the spiritual beings of the Earth. Tayo’s well-being is shattered by his experiences and loss while fighting in World War II, where Tayo was unable to properly honor…

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Native Americans in the Modern World

Set after World War II in and around a Laguna Pueblo reservation in the American Southwest, Ceremony portrays the lives and situations of Native Americans in the modern world. This portrayal is largely bleak, and shows the ways that the modern world, and America in particular, destroy Native American lives and dishonor Native American spiritual practices. Silko focuses on a group of Pueblo men who have returned from fighting for America in WWII, only to…

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The practice of storytelling is an intensely important spiritual element in many Native American cultures, encompassing both entertainment, moral guidance on the proper way to live, and connection to a shared past. In Ceremony, Silko honors the power that storytelling carries in these communities, weaving elements of the traditional Native American art of oral storytelling into a modern narrative story that seeks to educate and instruct readers about ways to heal the world. Interspersed…

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Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation

The title of Ceremony refers to the ceremonies and rituals that, according to the novel, all humans must perform in order to keep themselves and the world happy and healthy. These ceremonies can be formal or informal, but all, the novel asserts, are intensely important for both the well-being of individual people and the larger world that they live in. Ceremonies are performed through physical actions, such as a hunter giving salt to a deer…

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Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity

Ceremony’s setting in the American Southwest naturally includes the broad mix of cultures that call this region home. Silko explores the Anglo-American, Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, Navajo, Japanese, and other cultural influences on this region. The novel also suggests a very clear argument for the ways that those of different cultures can and should interact.

The novel asserts that cultures that are intolerant of cultural diversity, that seek either purity or domination, are destructive. The novel…

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