Yellow Woman

by

Leslie Marmon Silko

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Yellow Woman/Narrator Character Analysis

The unnamed narrator of the story is referred to as Yellow Woman—a mythological character from Native American folklore. She spends the story trying to determine whether it is possible that she could be both an ordinary woman living in the present and the mythical Yellow Woman of her grandfather’s stories. After meeting Silva, who claims to be a mountain spirit, and going with him into the mountains, she wonders how her family will react to her disappearance and decides that “they will go on like before.” From her thoughts about her family, it becomes clear that Yellow Woman doesn’t feel strong ties to any of them, and perhaps was seeking a reprieve from her mundane life. Despite Silva’s reassurances that he is ka’tsina and she is Yellow Woman, the narrator dismisses the seemingly far-fetched idea that she and Silva could be the characters of myth, claiming that such things didn’t happen anymore. Even so, the Yellow Woman mythology functions as a kind of prophecy for the narrator, who finds herself compelled to follow the myth’s trajectory despite questioning the possibility that she could truly be Yellow Woman. By the end of the story, it appears that the narrator has embraced a more fluid sense of self, thinking of herself as both the nameless woman from the pueblo and Yellow Woman. Through the narrator’s thoughts, Silko gives a modern voice to an old tradition of storytelling. The narrator is a modern woman pulled into an old folktale, discovering that mythical stories often have ordinary beginnings.

Yellow Woman/Narrator Quotes in Yellow Woman

The Yellow Woman quotes below are all either spoken by Yellow Woman/Narrator or refer to Yellow Woman/Narrator. 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:

I decided to tell them that some Navajo had kidnapped me, but I was sorry that old Grandpa wasn’t alive to hear my story because it was the Yellow Woman stories he liked to tell best.

Related Characters: Yellow Woman/Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Grandfather
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Yellow Woman LitChart as a printable PDF.
Yellow Woman PDF

Yellow Woman/Narrator Character Timeline in Yellow Woman

The timeline below shows where the character Yellow Woman/Narrator appears in Yellow Woman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
The narrator wakes up next to the river at sunrise and notices the sounds and wildlife moving... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
The narrator wakes the man to tell him she’s leaving. Unperturbed, he merely reminds her that she... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
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 be the ka’tsina spirit and... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
As she moves into his embrace, the narrator thinks again about Yellow Woman, wondering if she had an ordinary identity and family life... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Immediately, the Yellow Woman story enters the narrator’s thoughts again, and she thinks about how Yellow Woman left to live with the ka’tsina... (full context)
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
...argue with her but simply says, “Let’s go,” and pulls her along with him. The narrator explains that she eventually stopped resisting and hoped that they would encounter another person who... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Silva and the narrator ride north on horseback and the narrator describes the change of scenery as they climb... (full context)
Part Two
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Once inside, the narrator takes in Silva’s living quarters that contain only an old stove, enamel coffee pot, worn... (full context)
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
After eating, the narrator walks around outside and explains feeling like she was standing in the sky. She sees... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
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.... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
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 because she is breathing so... (full context)
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
The narrator wonders how her family has reacted to her disappearance and knows her deceased grandfather would... (full context)
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
The narrator thinks about the story her family would tell about her disappearance and remembers that she... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
...meat in a town called Marquez. As he prepares the horses for their trip, the narrator notices that he looks tall even next to the horses. She asks him again if... (full context)
Part Three
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
As Silva and the narrator make their way down the mountain, she looks off into the distance and thinks she... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
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 he was hunting,... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
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 rancher orders Silva to... (full context)
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Once she reaches a forked trail in the mountain ridge, the narrator pauses to let her horse rest. She recalls hearing four gunshots but thinks there might... (full context)
Part Four
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
The narrator follows the river back toward the pueblo. She stops to drink the river water and... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Walking back into the village, the narrator reaches the door of her house and is greeted with the sounds and smells of... (full context)