“This World Is Fragile”:
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
“But you know, grandson, this world is fragile” (Silko, 35).
This is what Ku’oosh, the medicine man, tells Tayo. Tayo has just returned home from World War II. During the war, he lost his cousin, Rocky, who had been like a brother to him, and he saw the face of his uncle, Josiah, in the face of one of the Japanese soldiers he had to execute. Tayo carries this severely traumatic experience back home with him, where he is faced with hatred from his friends and family who resent him for his “mixed” (half-Pueblo and half-white) background.
With a of “tightness in his throat,” Tayo asks Betonie, “I wonder what good Indian ceremonies can do against the sickness which comes from their wars, their bombs, their lies?” (132). Before the war, Tayo had known quite a different world, where, “despite all they had taught him in school…things had been different, and human beings could understand what the animals said, and once the Gambler had trapped the storm clouds on his mountaintop” (95). However, World War II changes his perceptions, teaches him to learn “by heart” the lie that “…only brown – skinned people were thieves; white people didn’t steal, because they always had the money to buy whatever they wanted” (191). In the end, Tayo feels that it had been himself who had died on the battlefield, not rocky, and that “somehow there had been a mistake with the corpses, and somehow his was still unburied” (28).
In the end, the war has changed Tayo’s views of the world, people who have suffered before are now suffering in different ways, and Tayo’s friends have betrayed him. However, to all this, Tayo’s grandmother says, “I guess I must be getting old…because these goings – on around Laguna don’t get me excited anymore…It seems like I already heard these stories before . . . only thing is, the names sound different” (260).
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.