Yellow Woman


Leslie Marmon Silko

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Themes and Colors
Identity Theme Icon
Reality and Myth Theme Icon
Time, Storytelling, Prophecy Theme Icon
Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Yellow Woman, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Identity is perhaps the most significant theme explored in this story. The title character and narrator is only known to the reader as “Yellow Woman,” a figure from Pueblo folklore, while the stranger she meets by the river, called Silva, claims to be “ka’tsina,” a mountain spirit known to seduce native women and take them from their communities. The narrator becomes fixated on uncovering Silva’s true identity, telling herself he couldn’t possibly be…

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Reality and Myth

For most of the story, the narrator is in a dream-like state, taking in the details of her surroundings but constantly doubting her senses. Reality blends indistinguishably with myth and mysticism during the time she spends with Silva. In the end, she decides to tell her family a version of the truth—that she was kidnapped by a Navajo rather than by a mountain spirit. By making the narrative a blend of realism and mythology…

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Time, Storytelling, Prophecy

The tradition of oral storytelling is central to many Native American traditions, and the Yellow Woman stories are popular folklore among the narrator’s Pueblo community, particularly with her family. In “Yellow Woman,” stories are shown to have a certain power over characters that verges, at times, on the prophetic. Throughout the text, the narrator searches for her identity and argues that she, a modern woman living in a time with highways, pickup trucks, and railroads…

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Native American Culture, Identity, and Experience

This short story was written a few years after the beginning of the American Indian Movement in 1968. As more Native American artists and writers produced work that celebrated their cultural heritage, they also spoke out against the persecution of Native Americans, past and present. Silko’s work in particular highlights the discord between Native American and white cultures. She fought against the erasure of her culture by centering the subjects of Pueblo identity, tradition, and…

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