As globalization is bringing the people, belonging to various countries together, the cultural boundaries are being blurred. In pursuit of their dreams, people are migrating to other countries and settling there. But while living in these countries, they strive to preserve their native culture. This leads to a struggle, as conflicts arise in the human mind, owing to the differences in his/her native culture and the culture of the society, in which he/she is living in. The struggle of human beings to cope with shifting cultural boundaries is depicted in the novel “Ceremony” by Leslie Silko.
The protagonist in the novel “Ceremony” is Tayo, who has fought for his country in World War II. Although he survives the war and returns to his family, he is haunted by the horrors of war. He struggles to find his true identity in a land where diverse cultures exist. The novel brings forth the struggle of the protagonist, Tayo to connect with his native culture and free himself from the corrupting influences of the foreign culture. Native Culture The novel “Ceremony” focuses on the efforts of Tayo to relate with his native culture.
The cultural conflicts experienced by Tayo, after returning from the war depict the disturbed state of mind of Tayo who is being troubled by the memories of war. The place, in which he was living, was influenced by the culture of the white people. “The fifth world had become entangled with the European names: the names of the rivers, the hills, the names of the animals and plants-all of creation suddenly had two names: an Indian name and a white name. ” ( Silko p. 68). The culture of white people was beginning to corrupt the minds of people following the native culture.
Even Tayo was experiencing the same corrupting influence on his thinking and behavior. Tayo wanted to remove himself from the influence of the foreign culture and connect with his native culture. The Native American stories act as bridge between Tayo and his native culture. The fact that the events in the life of Tayo are not presented in a chronological order; they are interspersed among the Native American stories, present the significance of these stories in resolving the cultural conflicts of Tayo. The real stories and mythical stories, which are a part of Native Culture, are mentioned in the novel in the same tone and language.
The author shows no difference while narrating the real events and the mythical stories. The mythical stories are an important part of the plot, for they are the stories which are bringing Tayo closer to his native culture. The stories are unraveling the mysteries of his native world to Tayo. “It took a long time to explain the fragility and….. that went with being human, old Ku’oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said; and this demanded great patience and love. ” ( Siko p. 101). The events of the past and present merge together in the novel. The Cultural Conflict
As Tayo discovers his true identity and culture, he begins to free himself from the bonds of the alien culture. “He cried the relief he felt at finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together-the old stories, the war stories, their stories-to become the story that was still being told. ” (Silko p. 260). The stories and the Native American Ceremony are the factors which resolve the cultural conflict that has gripped Tayo. The concepts of space and time keep on changing in the novel. The events in the present and past are presented in the novel in the same manner whereas the real world and mythical space converge in the novel.
The mythical world provides a meaning to the people, living in the real world. Tayo, an individual living in the real world, is able to overcome his cultural conflicts with the aid of the mythical world. The novel opens with the account of the real world, with which Tayo is struggling to cope with, but with the initiation of the ceremony, the narrative structure shifts to the mythical world. It is this mythical world that provides answers to Tayo’s question regarding his cultural identity. Tayo feels peaceful after his cultural conflict is resolved, for the Ceremony aids him in knowing his true self.
The Native American stories and the medicine men bring Tayo closer to his own culture. Living in a land where diverse cultures existed, had affected Tayo’s ability to understand and follow his native culture. As Tayo’s heritage can be traced to the white and Laguna culture, he is considered to be an outsider by the Laguna society. Tayo is unable to look at himself as a member of the white society. Owing to these conflicts within him, he is confused about his cultural identity and seeks the aid of his native culture to overcome his conflicts.
Role Of Native American Stories In the novel “Ceremony” Tayo finds his true cultural identity, owing to the Native American stories which transmit the beliefs and values of the native culture to Tayo. The cross-generational transmission of cultural identity takes place when Tayo hears and interprets the Native American stories. He understands the various elements of his native culture from the stories. The novel depicts the development of Tayo’s cultural identity by focusing on the mythical world of the stories along with the real world, in which Tayo is leading his life.
The transmission of cultural identity is depicted through the struggle of Tayo to free himself from the bonds of the foreign culture which was corrupting his native culture. Here the conflict of the protagonist is with the alien culture that is influencing the world, in which he is struggling to comprehend his native culture. The transmission of cultural identity is presented through the understanding of Tayo in regards to his native culture. The conflicting nature of his native culture and the alien culture is the reason that compels Tayo to seek the aid of Native American stories to connect with his native culture.
In the end, Tayo succeeds in finding his cultural identity. The Native American stories, which are part of Tayo’s native culture, provide Tayo with a meaning to his life in the real world. Conclusion The theme of the novel “Ceremony” brings forth the struggle of Tayo to find his true cultural identity. The narrative structure is significant in expressing the theme of the novel. The narrative structure in the novel depicts the convergence of the real world and the mythical world of the Native American stories. The mythical world of the Native American aids Tayo in solving his cultural conflicts.
Tayo is relieved when he understands the meaning of the Native American stories and the role played by them in the lives of the human beings belonging to the real world. In the end, he succeeds in his aim when he discovers the meaning and significance of the rituals of his native culture through the medium of the Native American stories and the Ceremony. He liberates himself from the corrupting influence of the foreign culture and connects with his native culture.
Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. Penguin Books. 1977.