The Desert as a Repertoire of Resistance for the Indians in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony

Farhat Ben Amor


Silko's novel, Ceremony, (1977) documents aspects of life in the Reservation where the Native Americans (also known as 'the Indians') had to face the oppression of the white Anglo-American invaders, on the one hand, and the hard climate of the desert, on the other. While grappling with these two forces, the novel demonstrates how the Indians tend to incorporate them in a larger story that has to do with the Indian rites which, in their essence, delineate the Indian cultural heritage. As a matter of fact, the symbolic ending of the novel, in which Silko dramatizes the Indian celebration of the restoration of rain and the eradication of the Whites, may offer the reader a poetic panorama of the Indians' ritual practices which lead them, ultimately, to enact their symbiotic bond to their land so that their desert becomes, paradoxically, a fertile space endowing them with more strength to resist all dispossessors, be they incarnated in persons like Whites, or, in nature such as the drought.

My aim, in this article, is to uncover the intimacy between the Indians and their fertile desert. Through studying characterization, recurrent symbols and motifs, and narration in Ceremony, I will foreground the association of the desert symbolically with the basic connotations attached to fertility such as abundance, generosity, multiplicity, generative power, birth and femaleness. I will evidence that the desert assumes an inspirational role of power for the Indians so that they grow able to withstand all kinds of hardship, whether emanating from the Whites or from drought. As a matter of fact, my ultimate objective is to highlight the rhetorical aspect of rain, the long-waited and solemnly celebrated boon by Tayo, the protagonist of the novel, and his whole Indian community in the Laguna desert. Rather than construed of denotatively, I will argue that rain, in Ceremony, should be understood connotatively in relation with the metaphorical transformation of the desert into a repertoire of resistance for the Indians. 


artistic chronotope, ceremony, circularity, drought/rain, grazing, hybridity, identity.  

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