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Submitted Literature


By Leslie Marmon Silko


Exploring Native American explanations of Post Traumatic Stress reactions following World War Two, main character Tayo, afflicted with psychosis, fiinds comfort in returning to his historical roots and Native American healing to cure his symptoms rather than the alcoholic and violent reactions of his peers.  Tayo, with his illness, is doubly alienated – from his ethnic history and traditions, and also from friends and family.  The text weaves traditional songs and prayers with prose, leading to some beautiful passages.

Key Themes:

  • Cultural Psychiatry
  • Diversity and Ethnicity
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

14 - “For a long time he had been white smoke.  He did not realise that until he left the hospital, because white smoke had no consciousness of itself.  It faded into the white world of their bed sheets and walls; it was sucked away by the words of doctors who tried to talk to the invisible scattered smoke.  He had seen outlines of gray steel tables, outlines of the food they pushed into his mouth, which was only an outline too, like all the outlines he saw.  They saw his outline but they did not realize it was hollow inside.  He walked down floors that smelled of old wax disinfectants, watching the outlines of his feet; as he walked, the days and seasons disappeared into a twilight at the corner of his eyes, a twilight he could catch only with this sudden motion, jerking his head to one side for a glimpse of green leaves pressed against the bars on the window.  He inhabited a gray winter fog on a distant elk mountain where hunters are lost indefinitely and their own bones marks the boundaries.”

40 – “Emo was getting drunk on whisky; his face was flushed and his forehead sweaty.  Tayo watched Harley and Leroy flip quarters to see who was buying the next round, and he swallowed the beer in big mouthfuls like medicine.  He could feel something loosening up inside.  He had heard Auntie talk about the veterans - drunk all the time, she said.  But he knew why.  It was something the old people could not understand.  Liqour was medicine at the anger that made them hurt, for the pain of the loss, medicine for tight bellies and choked-up throats.  He was beginning to feel comfortable place inside himself, close to his beating heart, near his own warm belly; he crawled inside and watched the storm swirling on the outside and he was safe there; the winds of rage could not touch him.

They were all drunk now, and they wanted him to talk to them; they wanted him to tell stories with them.  Someone kept patting him on the back.  He reached for another bottle of beer.”


250 – “He looked down at them.  If he had not known about their witchery, they might fall to him.  People had been drinking out in the hills on wood-hauling roads and sheep-camp roads since they first bootlegged liquor to Indians.  Standing around the fire, passing cheap wine around; Pinkie smashed the empty bottle against the water trough.  There were circles of charcoal, tyre tracks of side roads, and since the men came back from the war, a broken bottle glass all over the reservation.  His throat got tight.  He might be wrong about them.  Harley had helped him last year; he had come and got him moving again.  He was exhausted; the fear and the running from that day and from the night before had left him weak.  He needed to rest.  This ceremony was draining his endurance.”


Reference: Leslie Marmon, Silko. 1977. Ceremony. London: Penguin, 1986


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 23rd March 2009