Yellow Woman

by

Leslie Marmon Silko

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The narrator meets Silva as he sits by the river bank. He claims to be ka’tsina (a mythical mountain spirit known for seducing native women) and says that he has been waiting for her. The narrator doesn’t know anything about Silva when they first meet and then spend the night together, and he remains a mysterious figure throughout the text. Although the narrator remains skeptical about their mythical identities, Silva regularly and calmly insists that he is ka’tsina and she is Yellow Woman (another character from mythology), and in this way slowly pulls the narrator into a world of half-myth, half-reality. Silva and his connection to the mountains provide the narrator with an opportunity to escape from her ordinary life and to explore her identity as more fluid than she originally thought. Silva only parts with the narrator after they encounter a hostile but unarmed white rancher and Silva orders her to leave. As she rides off, the sound of several gunshots leave the narrator and the reader wondering if Silva has killed the other man. The narrator returns home believing that Silva will one day be waiting for her again, as the Yellow Woman story goes.

Silva/Ka’tsina Quotes in Yellow Woman

The Yellow Woman quotes below are all either spoken by Silva/Ka’tsina or refer to Silva/Ka’tsina. 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:
Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Yellow Woman published in 2012.
Part One Quotes

“You are coming with me, remember?” He sat up now with his bare dark chest and belly in the sun.

“Where?”

“To my place.”

“And will I come back?”

He pulled his pants on. I walked away from him, feeling him behind me and smelling the willows.

“Yellow Woman,” he said.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

But I only said that you were him and that I was Yellow Woman—I’m not really her—I have my own name and I come from the pueblo on the other side of the mesa. Your name is Silva and you are a stranger I met by the river yesterday afternoon.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina
Related Symbols: The River
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

I was wondering if Yellow Woman had known who she was—if she knew that she would become part of the stories. Maybe she’d had another name that her husband and relatives called her so that only the ka’tsina from the north and the storytellers would know her as Yellow Woman.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

“I don’t have to go. What they tell in stories was only real then, back in time immemorial, like they say.”

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

I will see someone, eventually I will see someone, and then I will be certain that he is only a man—some man from nearby—and I will be sure that I am not Yellow Woman. Because she is from out of time past and I live now and I’ve been to school and there are highways and pickup trucks that Yellow Woman never saw.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Part Two Quotes

“I don’t believe it. Those stories couldn’t happen now,” I said.

He shook his head and said softly, “But someday they will talk about us and they will say, ‘Those two lived long ago when things like that happened.’”

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

From here I can see the world.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mountains
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

He pulled me around and pinned me down with his arms and chest. “You don’t understand, do you, little Yellow Woman? You will do what I want.”

And again he was all around me with his skin slippery against mine, and I was afraid because I understood that his strength could hurt me. I lay underneath him and I knew that he could destroy me.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Silva had come for me; he said he had. I did not decide to go. I just went. Moonflowers blossom in the sand hills before dawn, just as I followed him.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Part Three Quotes

“Where did you get the fresh meat?” the white man asked.

“I’ve been hunting,” Silva said, and when he shifted his weight in the saddle the leather creaked.

“The hell you have, Indian. You’ve been rustling cattle. We’ve been looking for the thief for a long time…Don’t try anything, Indian. Just keep riding to Marquez. We’ll call the state police from there.”

Related Characters: Silva/Ka’tsina (speaker), The White Rancher (speaker), Yellow Woman/Narrator
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Part Four Quotes

I saw the leaves and I wanted to go back to him—to kiss him and to touch him—but the mountains were too far away now. And I told myself, because I believe it, he will come back sometime and be waiting again by the river.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), Silva/Ka’tsina
Related Symbols: The River, The Mountains
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Yellow Woman LitChart as a printable PDF.
Yellow Woman PDF

Silva/Ka’tsina Character Timeline in Yellow Woman

The timeline below shows where the character Silva/Ka’tsina appears in Yellow Woman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
...like she said but a woman from the pueblo, and he is a stranger named Silva. (full context)
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Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Silva continues to address the narrator as Yellow Woman, though she argues that they couldn’t possibly... (full context)
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Reality and Myth Theme Icon
...her role as the Yellow Woman of myths. The narrator’s thoughts are again interrupted as Silva pushes her into the river sand. (full context)
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Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
...narrator’s thoughts again, and she thinks about how Yellow Woman left to live with the ka’tsina spirit for many years before returning to her home with twin boys. The narrator asks... (full context)
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Silva doesn't argue with her but simply says, “Let’s go,” and pulls her along with him.... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Silva and the narrator ride north on horseback and the narrator describes the change of scenery... (full context)
Part Two
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Once inside, the narrator takes in Silva’s living quarters that contain only an old stove, enamel coffee pot, worn Navajo blankets, a... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
...has walked through a landscape like this. From there, she cannot see her pueblo, but Silva claims that he can see the entire world. He points out the boundaries of Pueblo,... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
When the narrator asks if he works for the cattle ranches, Silva confesses that he steals from them. They go back inside and the narrator continues pondering... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
They climb under the blankets together and Silva kisses her face. The narrator asks him why he’s laughing and he tells her it’s... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
The narrator wakes the next morning to find that Silva has left. She recognizes this as an opportunity for her to return home but decides... (full context)
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
...has reacted to her disappearance and knows her deceased grandfather would have understood that a ka’tsina had taken her into the mountain. She thinks about how her family would get along... (full context)
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Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
...would tell about her disappearance and remembers that she had never decided to go with Silva—she simply went, just as “moonflowers blossom in the sand hills before dawn.” As she wanders... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Silva asks her if she is coming with him to sell meat in a town called... (full context)
Part Three
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As Silva and the narrator make their way down the mountain, she looks off into the distance... (full context)
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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
A white rancher rides up to Silva and the narrator and demands to know where Silva got the fresh meat. Silva claims... (full context)
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Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Silva turns to the narrator and instructs her to ride back up the mountain. The white... (full context)
Part Four
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
...drink the river water and sit in the shade. As she rests, she thinks about Silva, feeling sad that she left him. Even so, she still feels confused about him. Eventually... (full context)