The differences between Ceremony Novel by Marmon Silko, and Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
IntroductionThere has been great effervescence for the Native literature since the second half of 20th century. The major novelists within this period include Leslie Marmon Silko, Scott Momaday and James Welch. This was, especially, due to their wide use of the cross-genre writing of mixing prose and poetry, as well as their recuperation of the traditional native culture (Chavkin 17).
The current paper presents the differences between Ceremony Novel by Marmon Silko, and Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King. This comparative essay has three main sections. The first section illustrates the role of nature as a cultural referent in the regenerative processes of the main character. The second section is the evolution of identity in search for post-contact environment, while the third section investigates the repercussions of the re-actualization of identity by protagonist in the community.
Despite the differences in contexts and origin, Green Grass, running Water, and Ceremony novels refer to the recurrent theme of the cultural alienation issue reaching the outside personal experience realm and demonstrates the positive contribution of successful cultural regeneration on a person’s community. Also, the two novels may be considered within the definition of ‘Initiation Stories’ by Jeanette Murray (Wilson 67). In this definition, the two novels narrate a story of the protagonist experiencing ambivalent relationship with Native American identity and the respective nations of origin. Initially, Eli and Tayo left the reservation to get a place within the Euro-American social culture. Nevertheless, the circumstances of Second World War for Tayo and death of Eli’s mother and wife, the two returned home while wounded physically. They found themselves incapable of moving on and healing. However, after performing reconnection rituals, they became freed from the paralysis (Chavkin 18).
As the two novels are adjourned, the reader is left anticipating the return to balance between the psyche and environment of the protagonist. The two authors used a protagonist who suffered direct impacts of the White Cultural Hegemony regarding the identity that allowed them explore ‘identity ambivalence’ theme within the profoundly divided community (Chavkin 19).
Despite their contextual differences, Silko’s and King’s novels are similar based on general thematic structure. By means of identity analysis, Tayo in Ceremony novel and Eli in green grass, running water, stand alone. This thesis illustrates that despite differences in contexts and approaches of Thomas king and Leslie Marmon Silko, the novels succeed in illustrating progression of the Native American literacy culture in redefining the native ontology and identity (Wilson 68).
Tayo and Eli become aliens in their community, after which they progressively accepted their identity themselves as cultural hybrids, a move that enhanced their healing from the personal trauma as they returned to their communities as change agents (Chavkin 20). The whole transformation is characterized by nature playing a critical role. Myth is always associated closely with landscape while nature acts as a gateway to the understanding of central mythical culture like Sunman for Laguna Pueblo and Coyote rain dance for Blackfoot. The analysis of the encounters by Tayo and Eli with natural elements like rain, wind and sun enhance the assessment of the progressive cultural reintegration. The trigger of post-traumatic memories reminds the need for balance for both communities and individuals, with nature being present in all reintegration processes by both Eli and Tayo (Wilson 69).
Similar to nature, the awkward interactions with the community by Tayo and Eli act as a reminder of their outstanding differences from their fellow peers. The two lacked meaningful contacts with their peers, and this made them suffer and become isolated. They become reserved after losing their loved ones making them hate themselves. Their cultural hybridity enhanced their feeling of inadequacy, both in their traditional communities and in mainstream Euro-American social hierarchy whose structures were disrupted during the years of assimilation and occupation. The two characters; Eli and Tayo, act as intermediaries between Native and Euro-American cultures (Chavkin 21).
In the two novels, the transformations of the relationship between protagonists and their communities are simultaneous to the nature return as well as the reintegration to the traditional native cosmology. Moreover, the exploration of the links between culture, community and nature as Eli and Tayo return to their traditions, the two authors have succeeded in relating the contemporary American Society. The evolution of issues like repressive education, abuse of natural resources and false portrayals of the native identity within the two novels form the discrepancies between King’s and Silko’s writing styles. Persistence of the social, cultural and environmental problems in the lives of native communities act as the central elements to the two novels. Due to the consequences for the identity process of contemporary natives in their relationship with whites, the issues remained crucial for the contemporary literacy tradition of the natives in the second half of the twentieth century (Chavkin 22).
The two novels lie in the same continuum of cultural reclamation and identity as they respond respective socio-historical contexts. The two novelists have explored the relationship between natives and the natural environment. Double role has been used in the two novels as cure for cultural malaise among the native-Americans (Wilson 70).
The analysis in this paper can be considered as a critical attempt in describing the evolution of cultural and social-historical contexts. The assessment of the aspects of this context raises the questions on the relationship of the natives with the environment, definition of the contemporary identity of the natives, as well as belonging of hybridized persons to the social structure of the traditional natives. Environment can be seen to be of critical importance in defining the Native American traditions and culture. The two authors have shown the importance of protecting the environment. Eli’s and Tayo’s journey exemplifies the theory of secrecy by Paul Beekman Taylor.
According to the secrecy theory, return to nature enhances the reconnection of people with their past, both culturally and historically.
Nevertheless, the environmentalist movement in 1970s by Euro-American affected the way through which King approached the cultural significance of the nature. By 1990s, the return to nature was not only crucial for the natives, but also for the Euro-Americans as the impacts of pollution became rampant. This compelled King to adapt the nature’s perspective. While sun in Ceremony represents an oppressive reminder of the post-traumatic memories to an empowering symbol, the water in green grass running water acts as an ambiguous symbol of past trauma and change.
The era during Silko’s writing had a large generational gap between the young and old, and white educational system with the traditional one. On the other hand, it is clear that King felt the need for the natives to embrace their traditions as a means to reconstruct their community bonds. Therefore, there can only be an assumption of unresolved need for regeneration theme in the two novels. However, Silko has directly influenced other authors, and King included recuperating his journey towards regeneration, as well as encouraging action within the native communities.
Chavkin, Allan Richard. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony: A Casebook. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.
Wilson, Jonathan Max. The Brotherhood of the Earth: An Examination of Simon Ortiz and Thomas King’s Literature from an Ecological and Deconstructionist Perspective. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.