Yellow Woman

by

Leslie Marmon Silko

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Yellow Woman: Part Two Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Once inside, the narrator takes in Silva’s living quarters that contain only an old stove, enamel coffee pot, worn Navajo blankets, a bedroll, and a cardboard box. She fries them potatoes to eat and he sits on the floor, watching her as she cooks. As they eat together, the narrator questions Silva about whether he has brought other women home and if he uses the ka’tsina trick on them, too. She again refuses to believe the Yellow Woman story could be about them. He tells her that someday others will tell their story.
Silva’s house lacks identifying details, which helps retain the mystery around his identity. The worn Navajo blankets could mean that he is Navajo, but he also could have obtained them through other means. Silva remains steadfast in his strange insistence upon their mythical identities, but the narrator’s inability to confirm or deny this ultimately points to the shifting and undefinable nature of identity.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
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After eating, the narrator walks around outside and explains feeling like she was standing in the sky. She sees the outlines of the surrounding mountains and wonders who else 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, Navajo, Texan, and Mexican lands.
The narrator’s proximity to the mountains and the sky seem to pull her further into the mythology as she is able to imagine other hypothetical people wandering this same liminal, mythical landscape. She can no longer see her home grounded on the earth and in the modern world. Silva appears to embrace both the mythic and the real, believing that they can coexist, which grants him insight that the narrator lacks.
Themes
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
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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 Silva’s identity. She tells him that he must be a Navajo, but he insists that she already knows who he is, and the Navajo people know him, too.
Silva’s stealing further establishes his identity as an outsider—both in relation to the narrator’s community and to the surrounding ranches. As an outlaw living in the mountain and therefore between communities, he exists in a liminal space both physically and socially.  
Themes
Identity 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 hard. She turns away from him, but he pulls her back, becoming forceful. He tells her that she will do what he wants. Yellow Woman feels afraid and recognizes that he is more powerful than she is. Later, though, her feelings switch to tenderness, and she kisses his face as he sleeps.
The narrator’s hard breathing could be interpreted either as passion or as fear, but either way, Silva’s comment offends her. Silva again resorts to force, and the dynamic quickly shifts from one of romance to one of abuse. The narrator’s feelings oscillate between fear and tenderness towards him, making it difficult to determine whether she views their relationship as consensual.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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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 to eat something before starting her journey back down the mountain. She sits eating dried apricots and drifts off as she thinks about how, sitting there in silence, she doesn’t believe in highways, railroads, or cattle. When she wakes up from her drowsing, she sees ants at her feet and thinks of her family far down below her.
In Silva’s absence, the narrator plans to return home, but shows no hurry in doing so. Instead, she rests, and the silence of the mountains pulls her into a time and space untouched by modernity. In the mountain, she is both physically and spiritually elevated, and her family—her only concrete tie to the real, modern world—seems small and far away.
Themes
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy 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 have understood that a ka’tsina had taken her into the mountain. She thinks about how her family would get along if she never returned, deciding that they all would simply move on.
The narrator’s thoughts about her grandfather suggest she felt a connection with him and the storytelling tradition he represents which she doesn’t feel with the rest of her family. Her calm conclusion that her family would simply move on with their lives in her absence implies a lack of strong affection between them.
Themes
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
The narrator thinks about the story her family 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 through the pine trees, she eventually ends up back at Silva’s house instead of going home as she had intended. Silva is dressing an animal carcass when she returns.
In the mountain and away from her family, the narrator seems to drift easily between reality and myth. The Yellow Woman story weaves in and out of her thoughts, and she seems bound to its storyline, unable to break free from the forces that compel her to stay with Silva just as flowers are unable to resist blooming. This feeling of inevitability further strengthens the notion that she may—seemingly impossibly—be the subject a myth that was written before she was born.
Themes
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Silva asks her if she is coming with him to sell 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 he’s a Navajo, and he just shakes his head. Before they leave, Silva grabs his rifle, and the narrator asks if the people he steals from ever try to catch him. He says they don’t because they don’t know who he is.
The narrator has been wishing for external confirmation of Silva’s humanness, and the trip to town promises social interactions that might be able to provide just this. Silva’s decision to arm himself, however, creates suspense and the possibility of violence, implying that their interactions in town may not be what the narrator had hoped for.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon