Miserable Life Suffering, Powerful Heart Proping | On Storytelling By Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer raised in the tribe of Laguna Pueblo. During her childhood, she learnt Laguna legends and traditions from her family members and also got educated in the University of New Mexico before becoming a literature writer. She is a descent of both Anglo American and Mexican American, because of which she grew up on the edge of pueblo society and her family was not allowed to participate in ritual activities. As a result of being a short story writer, one of her most important works is called Storytelling that is composed of various legends and stories related to the traditional Indian culture. In this book, Silko intends to clarify the interrelationship between the stories she had heard and her sense of storytelling and language that had been given to her by the old folks, the people back home. (Barnes 1579) The audience in the author’s view is those who are fond of clarifying the relationship between the spoken and the written. The author also stresses “the key to understanding storytellers and storytelling at Laguna Pueblo is to realize that you grow up not just being aware of narrative and making a story or seeing a story in what happens to you and what goes on around you all the time, but just being appreciative and delighted in narrative exchanges”, so “it isn’t like there’s only one storyteller designated”. The reason why Silko writes these stories is to satisfy herself by translating the feeling, flavor or sense of a story into a literature version. However, during this process, she does not change the spirit, the mood or the tone of the story because she regards stories as living things with their own vitality. (Barnes 1581)

Against a backdrop of describing racism and revenge in Storytelling, Lullaby is one of its most famous story told from the perspective an old woman who recalling the tragic memories in her life. Arranged through the way of flashback, the story is elicited by a blanket of Ayah’s son, Jimmie who has died in the battlefield, then the occasion of weaving with Ayah’s mother and grandma and finally Ayah’s husband named Chato. Except for Jimmie, Ayah has another two children named Danny and Ella who are taken away from her by the whites. What is an added disaster to these poor couple is that Chato is chased from the work for his physical defect. Apart from a bit of payment and a blanket, they have nothing at all.

The story is named as Lullaby, but is not about the innocence of children. “On the contrary, this is a story about the horrors of adulthood, but it also reflects the ability to weave all of the events of one’s life into a story”. “Memory, too, serves as a blanket that warms Ayah and allows her to continue living despite the horrible conditions she faces”. (Salyer 16) In the view of Edith Blicksilver, “Lullaby describes the Anglo’s exploitation of the Indian and tragic consequences of forcing young children to choose between the old tribal reservation traditions and a materialistic, urban, sterile society so alien to their close-knit extended family culture.” “Silko is able to extricate her powerful feeling s for this individual from her sympathetic involvement with her as a victim of racial oppression”. This old Navaho woman witnesses the transitional period between old and new. In her natural traditional life, she may not have been liberated as an Indian woman based on the modern definitions, but she knew her worth. While faced with the totally fresh world, she shows her heroic fortitude.

Indian was once a matriarchal clan society. It is hard to describe Indian as a society formed with a certain civilization since the European colonists landed here, so it provides a good opportunity for those colonists to control the aborigines on their minds. The whites forbid the Indians to give birth. Children are hauled away from their parents to a special naturalized school where kids are not allowed to speak their mother tough but only English. They are trained there to be the slaves of the white in terms of changing their names, studying the Bible and western culture. It is impossible for them to meet their biological parents again. In the story Lullaby, to some extend, it is lucky for Ayah to have chances to meet her children for twice. However, it is just a self comfort or self deception that are forced to be formed in the Indian’s personality. They have no right to choose but adapt to what these new immigrants brings to them, like culture, wealth, development and also disease which causes a great reduction of Indian population. Seen from the above condition, we can say with certainty that Indian people should be feared. They have no power at all in all respect to fight against these invaders. However, I find a kind of fearlessness and powerful inner forces from this woman named Ayah. Her strength is not a superficial one, liking killing some whites or starting some activities for defiance, but her braveness and persistence in dealing with all the events happened in her life. She has done what she can do and also has a strong heart to accept the result.

Her fortitude will be illustrated from her responses to facing with a broken family and the death of her child and husband.

Ayah’s family was broken by the whites who force to bring her children away. The white doctors ask her to sign her name on the paper. She does it as what her husband tells her because only he understands what the whites are talking about. However, she cannot believe that it is a contract to send her children away to a place called Colorado where there are many sick and dying strangers. Without knowing the fact, she just wants them to go and sign the name. ”She took the pen from the man without looking at his face”. “She stared at the ground by their feet and waited for them to leave”. From her actions, we can tell she is really nervous and afraid to contact with white strangers because she dares not to face up to them. However, she feels something is wrong later when they stand still and point at her kids. Out of maternity, she ran with her two children up to the hills avoiding them being taken away. This action is a comparative one to those before. They stay there for a quite long time to wait for her husband to pick them up. She just tries to ensure that those white doctors have left so that her children can still be with her. Living with her own children for the rest of her life has already become a fantasy, but at least she fights for it for one time which leaves her one more afternoon to share the beautiful view of warm sun, blue sky and light cloud with kids. The kids are gone finally. She hates her husband Chato who tells her to sign the name. As the revenge, she does not lie down besides him for many years later. We can personally feel the pain when we are away from home for a long time. Actually parents’ is far more than what we have burdened, so it is easy for us to understand Ayah’s sadness and anger. Nevertheless, when her husband is ill and chased away from the farmland, she comes back to him. She feels that “for forty years she had smiled at him and cooked his food, but he remained a stranger”, but she still “walked back to find Chato” because they are a couple and they have nothing left but each other. It can’t be easy for her to keep living with this man who makes her lose kids, but she still chooses to accompany him. The reason why she can handle this is because she has a strong heart.
The second aspect is her reaction to the death of her first child, Jimmie, and her husband. The blanket belonged to Jimmie when he is alive is the clue of the whole story. Ayah seems to take it to anywhere she goes. When Chato tells her “Jimmie isn’t coming home anymore”, “she didn’t cry then, but she hurt inside with anger”. The pain that cannot be relieved is the most excruciating. Ayah mourns Jimmie for twice in the story. The first one happens when Chato breaks his leg and can’t get payment until he can work again. She thinks if Jimmie is here, he can do that for his father. The second time happens when the white doctors bring Danny and Ella away. She thinks if Jimmie is here, he can read the contract for her and kids will not be taken away. Since the children left her, she moves to the hill where they spend the last time together with the blanket Jimmie has sent her. She takes the blanket with her all the time from which we can tell that she actually mourns Jimmie in every minute. Her strong appearance makes us feel more of the pain she suffers.

Chato is so old that the rancher finds a new labor to replace him. They have to move out of the gray boxcar shack. She is old too. With the white hair and wrinkled face, she is not stopped by the owner of the bar when she enters for looking for Chato. Men in there are afraid of her which makes her satisfied. She finds him when they are walking along the pavement. Chato talks with her that the ranch cannot be managed well without him. He also called her wife with the name of his sister. He wears the old boots, shirts and clothes, which makes him covered in rags. She laughed at him. He stops his step to look at her. He is really old now. Ayah asks for a rest. They sit down with their backs against the rock. “She offered half of the blanket to him and they sat wrapped together”. “His eyes were closed now, and in the light from the stars and the moon, he looked young again”. She begins to sing lullaby for him, making everything turn to the original and the nature. At this time, I think Ayah may not think of other things. She has a man who has accompanied her during her span time, the blanket that strongly suffused with the love of his son and the beauty of nature she used to shared with Danny and Ella. She feels satisfied and happy for what she has had. That is what the worth of life, which cannot be taken away by anyone.

The external environment sometimes may bring us various pressure, fearness or intranquility, which is out of our control. However, we can improve ourselves and try to face the difficulties with a strong inner power. Frustration, to some extend, is the fortune of life for it making us realize more of the value of what we have had.

Works Cited

Evans, Charlene Taylor. Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in  

     20th-Century Literature (1996): 172-87.

Blicksilver, Edith. Southwest Review (1979): 149-60

Salyer, Gregory. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997


A Story of my Reading

The title of a poem is usually where I start to build a basic interaction. When I encountered with “The Unknown Citizen”, I tried to make a reasonable guess about what the poem will say. The first hunch was that it tended to introduce a person and relate to a civilized society.With a supposition of the theme of the poem in mind, I read the poem through the first time. It was unexpected to have so much information while I was wondering how the citizen was“unknown”. Though there were some phrases unapprehended, I noticed that the poem had talked about a person from different and important aspects as a social member. After all these things that I have known about this “citizen”, I found the thing “unknown” at the end of the poem which corresponding to the title and apparently was the key to the understanding of the poem. The “citizen” in the poem appeared to be a perfect “citizen” rather than a real person. My first reading had proved my guess, but I felt that my interpretation still stayed on a superficial level. I needed more information and details to lead me to a deeper understanding.

During the second reading, I paid more attention to details and implied meanings while trying to answer questions on the work that were raised on my first reading. I examined those authorities mentioned in the poem and their importance for being chosen by the poet with my own experience and background knowledge about how the society worked. It seemed that this “citizen” was really a “saint in the modern sense” fulfilling every requirement of the society. He was obedient, hard-working and flowed with the tide. However, he was normal and average. I learned how the authorities and mechanisms think about him but nothing about the citizen himself: his thoughts, his feelings or his opinions on those authorities. I then further interpreted the information and found this citizen described as a record rather than an individual with distinctive characters. The comprehension of the known part of the citizen is essential to the understanding of the “unknown” part. I felt that I had been closer to the core of the work.

Based on what I had learned previously, I read the poem the third time straightening my thinking and trying to get a conclusion. The focus of the poem should be the contradiction of the known and unknown. On the first read, I had fixed the theme of the poem. Then I analyzed details for evidence proving my supposition and answers to questions remained before while reading the work the second time. So I was able to get a better comprehension of the work and complete my understanding. The poem appeared to describe a citizen with adequate information but failed in providing basic information to identify this citizen such as a name. The poet criticized the society treating a person as data and showing no respect to citizens with a sarcastic tone.

BOOK REPORT: My Country and My People | Lin yutang

     Lin Yutang, born in 1895, was a world-renowned novelist, essayist, philosopher, philologist and lexicographer. The New York Times said at the time of his death,” Lin Yutang had no peer as an interpreter to western minds of the customs, aspirations, fears and thought of his people.” My Country and My People was finished in 1935. In the book, he surveyed the mental and moral constitution and ideals of the Chinese people, as well as society, literature and the art of living.

     The book was divided into two large parts, Bases and Life. In each part, he further divided it into several categories which then were analysed explicitly with several aspects.

     Part I, Bases, was constituted by four chapters, namely, the Chinese People, the Chinese Character, the Chinese Mind and Ideals of Life.

     In the first Chapter, Lin Yutang mainly focused on five aspects of Chinese People. Firstly, apart from the cultural unity which bind the Chinese people as a nation, the southern Chinese differ probably as much from the northerners, in temperament, physique and habits, and happily, within orbit of the Chinese culture there has not been a rise of nationalism, but only of provincialism. Second, man in China has adapted himself to a social and cultural environment that demands stamina, resistance power and negative strength, and he has lost a great part of mental and physical powers of conquest and adventure which characterized his forebears in the primeval forests. Third, today the Chinese people possesses a large extent the racial vigor which can be explained as the infusion of new blood. Fourth, the racial stamina and racial vitality enables the Chinese people to survive political disasters and regenerate itself through foreign blood, is party constitutional and partly cultural. Among thecultural forces making for social stability must be counted first of all the Chinese family system and the complete absence of established classes be another. Fifth, the Chinese are culturally old but racially young.

     In Chapter II, the Chinese Characters are discussed. Firstly, Lin Yutang began withmellowness which suggest the qualities of a civilization built for strength and endurance rather than the qualities for progress and conquest. Then comes the three worst and most striking characteristics, patience, indifference and old roguery. The quality of patience is the result of racial adjustment to a condition where over population and economic pressure leave very little room for people to move about and is, in particular, a result of family system, which is a miniature of Chinese society. Indifference is largely due to the lack of legal protection and constitutional guarantee for personal liberty. Old roguery is due, for lack of a better word, to the Taoistic view of life. All these qualities are products of the same environment. Chinese pacificism is largely a matter of temperament as well as of human understanding. The spirit of cheerfulness and contentment is found in both the literature and illiterate classes, for such is penetration of the Chinese racial tradition. A strong determination to get the best of our life, a keen desire to enjoy what one has, and no regrets if one fails: this is the secret of the Chinese genius for contentment. Chinese humor is more in deeds than in words. No portrait of the Chinese character would be complete without a mention of its conservation.

     In Chapter III, Lin Yutang leads us to know things concerned the Chinese Mind. He suggested that Chinese suffer from an overdose of intelligence. And in many respects the Chinese mind is akin to the feminine mind. According to the author, the certain characteristics of Chinese thinking enables us to appreciate the cause of our failure to develop natural science. Chinese logic is based on the Chinese conception of truth, which according to the Chinese, can never be proved: it can only be suggested. The Chinese have resorted largely on intuition. The world of imagination in China is not confined to the illiterate. And to Lin Yutang, the most characteristic creatures of the Chinese imagination are the lovely female ghosts.

     In Chapter IV, Lin Yutang explored the ideal of life in China. To understand the Chinese ideal of life, he put, one must try to understand Chinese humanism, which implies, first a just conception of the end of human life; secondly, a complete devotion to these end; thirdly the attainment of these ends by the spirit of human reasonableness of the Doctrine of the Golden Mean, which may also be called the Religion of Common Sense. It has been pointed out that the Confusion outlook on life is positive, while the Taoistic outlook is negative. Taoism is the Great Negation, as Confucianism is the Great Affirmation. Confucianism, thought its doctrine of propriety and social status, stands for human culture and restriant , while Taoism, with its emphasis on going back to nature, disbelieves in human restraint and culture.Buddhism is the only important foreign influence that has become part and parcel of Chinese life.

     In Part II, Life, Lin Yutang also observed it through five directions, that is Woman’s Life, Social and Political Life, Literary Life, the Artistic Life and the Art of Living.

     In the discussion of Woman’s Life, Lin Yutang examined eight aspects including the subjection of woman, home and marriage, ideal of womanhood, education of daughters,love and courtship, the courtesan and concubinage, footbinding and emancipation. And it is from nine aspects that Lin Yutang looked into social and political life in China, absence of the social mind, the family system, nepotism, corruption and manners, privilege and equality, social classes, the male triad, the female triad, the village system, and “government by gentleman”. The literary life and artistic life also have very much details that reveal the true meaning of Chinese culture. Finally comes the particular Chinese art of living.

     What impresses me most is Lin Yutang’s good command of English, which is not his mother tongue. The language is accurate and beautiful indeed. Clear structure has been delivered. It is not hard for me to follow him all the way to the end of the book. And he has also examined this country and the people in very details. He provided us a general content of the whole country and people, then cut it into pieces and deeply analysed it and then show us the connection among them which in turn helped us to build the general conception in whole. In this way, we could better understand it.

     He wrote,” China is too big a country, and her national life has too many facets for her not to be open to the most diverse interpretations. I can lay bare her troubles because I have not lost hope.” To be put as a “her”, China becomes a mother-like figure which is correspond with my mind. China born and China nerd, I couldn’t love her more. “When one is in China, one is compelled to think about her, with compassion always, with despair sometimes, and with discrimination and understanding very rarely.” This sentence in his prologue of Part I suddenly striked me with realizing that no completely understanding of China-my country-is in my mind. Then I follow the organized details in this book step by step along with the increasing understanding of my country and my people.

     In the very last Chapter, Lin Yutang showed us a new perspective of life. The human spirit, according to him, is used to beautify life, to extract its essence, perhaps to help it overcome ugliness and pain inevitable in the world of our senses, but never to escape from it and find its meaning in a life hereafter.

      “In every aspect of knowledge and art of living, the test of life holds. It accounts for our pleasures and our antipathies. The test of life was with a racial thought, wordless and needing no definition or giving of reasons. It was that test of life which, instinctively I think, guided us to distrust civic civilization and uphold the rural ideal in art, life and letters, to dislike religion in our rational moments, to play with Buddhism but never quite accept its logical conclusions, and to hate mechanical ingenuity. It was that instinctive trust in life that gave us a robust common sense in looking at life’s kaleidoscopic changes and the myriad vexatious problems of the intellect which we rudely ignored. It enables us to see life steadily and see life whole, with no great distortions of values. It taught us some simple wisdom, like respect for old age and the joys of domestic life, acceptance of life, of sex and of sorrow. It made us lay emphasis on certain common virtues like endurance, industry, thrift, moderation and pacifism. It prevented the development of freakish extreme theories and the enslaving of man by products of his own intelligence. It gave us a sense of values, and taught us to accept the material as well as the spiritual goods of life. It taught us that, after all is said and done, human happiness is the end of all knowledge. And we arrange ourselves to make our lives happy on this planet, under whatever vicissitudes of fortune.”

I love the way he expresses the test of life. Yes. Life is precious that when we know something truly satisfied us, we hold on to it tight, as a mother hugs her baby close to her breast in dark, stormy night. So much of life is merely a farce. It is sometimes just as well to stand by and look at it and smile, better perhaps than to take part in it. Like a dreamer awakened, we see life, not with the romantic coloring of yesternight’s dream but with a saner vision. We are more ready to give up the dubious, the glamorous and the unattainable, but at the same time to hold on to the few things that we know will give us happiness.

     He then compared the national life and human life to the year with four seasons.

“For we are now in the autumn of our national life. There comes a time in our lives, as nations and as individuals, when we are pervaded by the spirit of early autumn, in which green is mixed with gold and sadness is mixed with joy, and hope is mixed with reminiscence. There comes a time in our lives when the innocence of spring is a memory and the exuberance of summer a song whose echoes remain faintly in the air, when as we look out on life, the problem is not how to grow but how to live truly, not how to strive and labor but how to enjoy the precious moments we have, not to squander our energy but how to conserve it in preparation for the coming winter. A sense of having arrived somewhere, of having settled and having found out what we want. A sense of having achieved something also, precious little compared with its past exuberance, but still something, like an autumn forest shorn of its summer glory but retaining such of it as will endure.

I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So i like best of autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colors richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colors, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death.

I never mean to use these long paragraphs to make my report look sufficient in length. When I typed these words by single letters, I try to permeate it into my heart and my philosophy of life. I want to remember these words deeply in my heart.


The Best Anti-War Poem

War, like love, is always a popular theme of poetry. Of the three war poems, I find that “Grass” by Carl Sandburg best suits the situation of anti-war rally. I draw this conclusion after a careful examination considering three criteria: whether the poem can strike a chord in Americans and people of the world, whether the poem conveys the senselessness of the war to the reader appropriately and whether the poem is easy to understand.

To begin with, since the poem is chosen for the opening of an anti-war rally, it must be able to arouse sympathy of audiences including people of different colors, religions and ages. In order to achieve this effect, it should be capable of bringing audiences closertogether and gaining recognition of its hearers. The poem “Grass” by Carl Sandburg does a good work at this point by adopting first point of view and employing “nature” as the narrator to put all people in this big background and draw nearer the distance among audiences. In contrast, the poem “Facing It” by Yueself Komunyakaa, also in first point of view, builds an invisible wall between “I”, an African American veteran, and its hearers while it suggests others in the memorial couldn’t have the same deeper understanding and feeling toward the war. As for the poem “The War in the Air” by Howard Nemerov, it limits itself to the war in the air, which may weaken its effect of appealing to all kinds of audiences. As a result, these two poems fail to fulfill the requirement according to the first criterion.

Secondly, the poem for the rally is supposed to introduce the pain and damage that war has caused to the individual and human beings in an appropriate tone. Using and repeating the word “pile”, “Grass” presents the toll that the consequences of war take on humanity. Besides, it condemns that people cover it up and never learn from it by listing some famous battles in the history. “Austerlitz”, “Waterloo”, “Gettysburg” and the other two, no matter how much significance and glory they might bring, just like the one that is going on, they cost a lot more than that. And what’s shameful is that people try to cover it up and forget it. Although the tone of it appears to be impassive, it produces a sarcastic effect. The repetition pattern throughout the whole poem strengthens the sarcastic effect and resentful tone. Whereas, “Facing It” mainly focuses on the depiction of the feeling and imagination of the poetry as a veteran. It tends to emphasize the unbearable and ineradicable harm war had brought to those who experienced it while neglecting the pain that it caused to the whole community and to the humanity. However, “The War in the Air” does a good work in conveying the dark side of the war from a broader perspective. It takes both “we”who see the war as lookers-on and “our dead” who sacrificed in the war, both winners and losers into discussion implying that there is no winner in war and both sides share the loss. In light of this criterion, both “Grass” and “The War in the Air” could be good choice.

Finally, the poem should be easy to read and understand considering its educational goal and influences that the rally intends to gain. In respect of this criterion, “Grass” is evidently the best one not only due to its shortness but also its simple words and pattern. The poem is quite short and in a repetition pattern for emphasizing effect. There are no difficult words that need extra interpretation and audiences from different educational background can understand it with basic reading ability. Poetry deliberately chooses those most well-known battles thus audiences will feel no difficulty in comprehension. However,“Facing It” is more likely a stream of consciousness that hearers may find it hard to follow the thought of the poetry. “The War in the Air” creates a grief atmosphere and conveys a deep meaning but it may take hearers a while to think it through, let alone somesophisticated phrases the poetry uses such as “Per ardua” and “Per aspera”. Given the understandability, the favor should be on “Grass”.

Based on the analysis above, which considers closeness to the audience, depiction of the dark side of the war for the humanity and understandability, I can safely conclude that the poem “Grass” by Carl Sandburg is the best poem for the anti-war rally.

A Psychoanalysis of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

The short story entitled “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates touched off a heated discussion when it was published in 1966. Critics have applied various literary theories and approaches to this fascinating and perplexing story. There are multiple interpretations of this story from different perspective. Feminist critics argue that Oates writes Connie as a young woman who suffers the same experience with other women in a patriarchal society. Some critics explore the literal reasons behind the story which usually come down to the cultural or social issue such as violence and rape that the author wants to address. Psychological analysis probes Connie’s mind to seek the psychological reasons leading her to her final decision. While all these interpretations have made their own points, they also have flaws in their arguments. Fresh readings are always in need to provide a broader and deeper way to understand this story.

Psychoanalytic criticism usually is to analyze and evaluate a literary work with the application of a certain psychological principle which is established by theorists such as Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. With the help of this approach, this paper will examine the story to see how author presents a battle among id, ego and superego through Connie’s struggle in making decision to choose between ordinary family life and adventure with a stranger. The superego is presented by Connie’s sister and her mother while Arnold Friend plays the part of id. The analysis will mainly focus on the interaction between Connie and other people, the role that Arnold Friend plays in the story and symbolic meaning of music in the story. Alternative interpretations also will be discussed for comparison and weakness will be pointed out and refuted.

The story begins with an introduction of Connie and her family life. “Her name was Connie”. “She was fifteen”. And like any other normal girls, she cares her appearance and want other’s acceptance which she can hardly get from her family. Her mother always condemns her and praises her sister. Her father just simply ignores them in daily life. Connie never feels close to any of her family members, and she prefers life out of home with her friend to a cinema, shopping mall and their favorite place, a drive-in restaurant where she feel free. In his article of psychological analysis of Connie, Clifford J.

Kurkowski sees the isolation and alienation that Connie get from her family and confidence and feelings of taking control that she get when she is out as the psychological basis which cause her to choose leave in the end. However, he limits his view to social acceptance while something deeper remains unnoticed. Connie hates home not only because of her relationship with her family but also pressure she feels. June, her sister, represents the perfect image or good model that the society requires. Her mother becomes an “executor” who binds her by criticizing her bad behavior and recommending the good behavior. They then together represent the “superego” of Connie that follows rules and restricts the bad desire. The drive-in restaurant is where “id” of Connie breaks the constraints of “superego” to seek satisfaction. However, the sensible part, the “ego” of Connie, is still in control at that time until it loses control in the battle against “id”.

The “id” of Connie which reflects her true desire for sex and excitement is represented by Arnold Friend. He shows up when other family members are out, and there is no supervision and protection for Connie who is vulnerable to hurt and temptation. He appears to be very charming and appealing with his shining car, glaring sunglasses and bright jalopy. The fact that Arnold knows everything about her without a proper reason, somehow, suggests that he is more than someone who offers cares and acceptance as Clifford J. Kurkowski argues in his article. And Arnold Friend tempts Connie later in the story by uttering the truth of her deepest desire in an order tone. The confrontation between Connie and Arnold suggests the battle between the “ego” and “id”. The conversation that Arnold offers invitations and Connie refuses him records the fight between the “ego” and “id” for control. Bess Rhode’s interpretation that this story criticizes and emphasizes the violence and rape towards women can hardly hold water. In the process, there is no physical violence involved. All struggles stay on the psychological level. Connie feels more and more powerless in the process till she totally surrenders to the temptation of “id”. She once resists when she realize that it’s dangerous to blindly follows the temptation and desires. However, her resistance is useless since Arnold claims “This place you are now-inside your daddy’s house-is nothing but a cardboard box I can knock down any time. You know that and always did know it”. It seems to be the only reasonable choice for her to go with him. At that point, Connie’s “ego” totally loses its position to “id”.

Music is something throughout the story and plays a significant role in the process of confrontations. Patrick Paul Christle offers a detailed analysis of songs involved in the story as evidence that music strengthens the feminism theme. Since there is no direct use of lyrics in the text, this analysis appears to be farfetched. Music here is more like a bridge or the door between “ego” and “id”. Connie feels free wherever there is music. In the drive-in restaurant, she listens to the music when she enjoys attention and freedom. In home alone, she listens to Bob Dylan when her family is out and there is no restriction. Clifford J. Kurkowski also states that music “captures Connie by reminding her that once it stops playing she re-enters society.” It’s music that blurs the boundary between rationality and desire and allows her go self-indulgence. When she confronts Arnold Friend, there are several times that Connie notices that he uses lyrics and feel him more persuasive then. Again, music shows as a guide that leads her to instinctual impulses.

The story of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” tells how a girl fails to resist temptation of her desire and lead to self-ruin. The author depicts the struggle of her “ego”, the sensational part, against her “id” represented by Arnold Friend with “superego” absent. There are several rounds of confrontation in which “ego” and “id” trying to gain control. However, Connie surrenders herself to her desire at the end. An unfortunate future then doomed for her since the author suggests in the end of the story that she is going to some place that she “had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it”.

Work Cited
Rhodes, Bess. Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Oates’ Figurative and literal Reason behind “Where Are You Going, Where have You Been?” Watermarks
Kurkowski, Clifford J. “A Psychological Analysis of Connie: A Feminist Viewpoint of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Footlights, n.d. Web. 21 April 2011..

Identity Seeking by Storytelling | Storyteller

Identity Seeking by Storytelling

Storyteller by Leslie Silko is a collection of work of different genres including photographs, poems, stories, interviews and mythology. It is “a unique showcase for Silko’s work” (Salyer). “Storyteller”, the short story bearing the same name with the book, is one of Silko’s finest work. It tells a story of a Native Amerian girl takes her revenge killing the white storeman who murdered her parents and becoming a storyteller in the end. However, as an outstanding piece of work of Native American literature, it is much more than a dark tale of revenge.

Multiple interpretations by critics have been aroused. Jim Ruppert reads the story as an identity seeking process of the main character who “loses the boundaries between objective reality and the story and between the present flow of the story and ideas of the past and future”. Nevertheless, Linda L. Danielson tries to interpret the story from a feminist point of view while extending narrative of the central character to the maintenance of cultural integrity “in opposition to the pressure of white culture”. She believes that Silko is “warning non-Indian readers to beware of the limits of their cultural system”. Similarly, Gregory Salyer also perceives the story highlighting “the bland uniformity of white culture”. Moreover, he argues that losing boundaries between ice and sky symbolizes “the loss of identity” of both individual and Native American culture as a whole. Emphasis of the story has been laid on the importance of “telling the difference”.

Given the cultural background and the text itself, “Storyteller” presents the reality of Native American culture struggling to maintain identity and independence as white culture encroaches. Silko leads readers to see the danger of uniformity of cultures and efforts Native Americans make to seek identity, to regain voice and to keep cultural integrity. This paper discusses how the theme is presented by examining the significance of storytelling in Native American culture, the symbolic meaning of ice, sky and sun and different reaction of characters.

The first thing needed in understanding the story deeply and comprehensively is reading the story in Native American cultural context. In Pueblo culture, storytelling is something predominant. It lies “at the heart of the Pueblo people” (Silko). Differing with definition in western culture, storytelling is “this constant process working on many different levels” (Silko). And the story must be told, as Silko says, “from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed” (Silko). The telling “establishes permanence and maintains the culture” (Evans), the storyteller is “a highly revered member” who “has a unique relationship with the past” (Evans).

In the beginning of the story, the girl is only a listener who has no story to tell. Meanwhile, Grandma has the story about the death of the girl’s parents. The old man never quits telling his story of the bear. The girl asks questions and learns until she decides to make a story of her own, a story “about the red-haired Gussuck” (Silko p.30). She kills the storeman with tricks from the old man’s story and becomes a storyteller who does “not pause or hesitate” and “goes on with the story” and “never stops” (Silko p.62).

Just like the old man, the girl preserved her identity in continuously storytelling. Therefore, Native American culture is maintained in the same way. Refusing the excuse that the attorney makes up for her, the girl insists on telling the story in her own way, the way in which the story must be told and the way the Gussucks don’t understand and never will. It goes the same with the Native American culture. It must keep its integrity and independence resisting the assimilation and reformation of white culture. Only in this way, by telling the story as it is, Native American culture is able to survive.

The theme of cultural integrity and individual identity is best presented by the dominant image of merging of the ice and the sky and the sun. Silko warns people of the danger of cultural assimilation using this image in the very beginning of the story through the girl’s thought and words. “She told herself it wasn’t a good sign for the sky to be indistinguishable from the river ice, frozen solid and white against the earth” (Silko p.1). However, that’s the crisis state that Native American culture faces under the pressure of the white culture. Just like the sky “that were lost in the density of the pale ice” (Silko p.1), Native American culture loses itself in white culture’s infiltration. “The obliteration of contrast is the obliteration of boundaries, and boundaries are what form identity” (Salyer). Boundaries between ice and the sky are what have been lost in the story. They have been “swallowed by the freezing white” (Silko p.54). People are losing their language, traditions, lifestyle and environment that they live in. Everything that defines them and their culture is gradually replaced by new ones of white culture. Both the old man and the girl notice this. They know the threat of white culture and the disastrous result that the obliteration of cultural identity would bring. The image has been repeated several times in their words or through their eyes in the story. The storytellers are more like prophets speaking of their predictions. The old man claims that “it is approaching. As it comes, ice will push across the sky” (Silko p.21). The girl says “That was how the cold would come: when the boundaries were gone the polar ice would range across the land into the sky” (Silko p.44).

Individual is like the sun in the sky. The sun “wasn’t moving; it was frozen, caught in the middle of the sky” (Silko p.4). The sky is “solid as the river with ice which had trapped the sun” (Silko p.4). Native Americans have been lost their identity in the cultural assimilation as ice has already “pushed its way into the sky to seize the sun” (Silko p.48). They have been stripped off their language and abandoned their lifestyle, traditions and everything in their culture which they root in and which make them who they are. Nevertheless, they can never enter into white culture and has no say in the white world. They have been trapped by white culture.

However, the girl hasn’t given up seeking her identity and her own way to go. And she makes it by resisting influence of white culture and telling her story in her own way, a way in which Native American culture depends on for continuity. Her victory is also showed by the same image of the sun, the sun and ice in a contrast between the beginning and the end. At the end of the story, before she starts her story, the girl looks out the window and sees that “the sun has finally broken loose from the ice” (Silko p.60). The sun’s breakthrough and regaining of power symbolize the girl’s success in fighting for identity, integrity and freedom. Although it may be hard to make a great change with one person’s strength since the sun’s light is still “weak and pale” (Silko p.60), it is a start for finding its own place and getting Native American back to its track. The girl knows that white culture could and would be beaten as long as every native American beware of and keep their identity and integrity just like ice will finally “descend from the sky” (Silko p.59). The fate of individual and Native American culture has interacted.

The struggling for identity and integrity is also showed in different ways of storytelling of different people. Grandma keeps the story to herself until the girl asks. Her story is a story in which her role is to accept the result that the Gussuck have arranged. The story ends up with nothing conclusive after the storeman leaves, otherwise, she could tell the girl more (Silko p.39). Instead, she tells the story once and “never speaks of it again” (Silko p.39). The old man is the one from whom the girl learns the rules of storytelling. He keeps telling his story and tells it as it is. However, there’s no audience for his story. He warns people about the danger and how the end is approaching. No one understands or cares. Nonetheless, recognized or not, he possesses his identity and integrity in his storytelling and making his own ending.

The girl is more energetic and initiative in fighting for her own identity. She plans and takes control of her own story which is her own destiny. After the storeman dies as she intends, she insists on telling the story as it is. She refuses the reformation of the white attorney to the story even when telling the true story on the court may cost her life. She understands that “the story must be told as it is” (Silko p.59) just like culture must be kept its way without reconstruction and reformation by other culture. The three characters in the story have struggled to varying degree and ended with different destiny. However, as long as the story is told, the role in the story wouldn’t be dead and Native American culture will live.

All the analysis discussed above aims to clarify the theme of the story and how Silko manage to present rich meaning with a simple story. The significance of storytelling and storyteller in Native American culture lays the foundation for understanding this story. The author’s worries about cultural assimilation and the loss of self identity are best embodied in the image of the sun, ice and the sky throughout the story. Silko suggests her will for fighting and taking control of one’s own fate through different reactions of different characters. “Storyteller” is a wonderful story and a thought-provoking one. As Gregory Salyer puts it, it is a story “not simply entertainment or fantasy but invoke the realities” and “generates death as well as survival”.

Works Cited
Evans, Taylor Charlene. “Mother-Daughter Relationships as Epistemological Structures: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead and Storyteller”. Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in 20th-Century Literature. 1996. 87-172.
Salyer, Gregory. “Storyteller: Spider-Woman’s Web”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997. 58-84.
Silko, Leslie. “Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Ruppert, Jim. “Storytelling: The Fiction of Leslie Silko”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Danielson, L. Linda. “A Feminist Reading of Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Companion Piece:

This paper is well organized in three parts with a brief introduction, body part and a sound conclusion. Three reasons have been offered: the importance of storytelling in Pueblo culture, the meaning behind the image of the sky, ice and he sun and different reactions of characters. Other scholar’s opinions and arguments have been acknowledged.

Text and Contexts: The Story Must Be Told | Storyteller

The Story Must Be Told

Writing Project: Text and Contexts
Essay Concerned: Storyteller

Leslie Marmon Silko, a contemporary writer and a Laguna, brings a new perception to language and literature, seeing the creation, history and time from the Pueblo perspective. Storyteller by Silko is a multigeneric work comprised of personal reminiscences and narratives, retellings of traditional Laguna stories and lovely maps of the fertile storytelling ground from which her art evolves and to which it is returned to. The book weaves itself into a spiderweb that brings together time, land, and experience, capturing the essence of life and language in a way that diverse audiences can appreciate. In Silko’s words, “the dimensions of the process” of storytelling is explained and both the structure and primary thematic concerns are established in the book.

The short story “Storyteller” could be recognized as Silko’s signature story in a highly condensed form with almost all the issues addressed in her other work. At its center is a young Eskimo girl, orphaned, living with a dying old man, the village storyteller who is victimized by Gussuck. She determines to avenge herself against the Gussuck storekeeper responsible for her parents’ death.

Leslie Marmon Silko’s works are widely studied by scholars. Edith Blicksilver examines Silko’s portrayal of Native American woman in her short stories and suggests that “Silko attempts to explore the conflict between traditionalism and modernity”. Jim Ruppert believes that in “Storyteller” the reality of the story and the individual’s identity are woven together into one story reality that patterns all others. Linda L. Danielson gives a feminist reading of “Storyteller”. She maintains that “the central character uses narrative to maintain the integrity of self and culture in opposition to the pressures of white culture”.

The “story” serves as several roles in “Storyteller” the title story and also in Storyteller the whole book. In her anthology, Silko establishes the significance of the “story”. As it is vividly portrayed in the title story “Storyteller”, story can be seen from three main perspectives on my behalf: story as the legacy; story as a way to seek identity; story as a weapon against assimilation.

First and foremost, story has been seen as the legacy. In “Storyteller”, story is the tie that bonds the old man and the girl, two generations of Native Americans, together. The old man is the village storyteller who tells story in an intensely beautiful precision and accomplishes it with his life. The story of a bear in winter that he keeps telling becomes the girl’s legacy. It is such a powerful version from which the girl learns when she decides to create a story of her own. Most importantly, besides the story itself, the way in which a story should be told has also been passed from generation to generation as a legacy. As the old man insists, the principle of storytelling says that “it will take a long time, but the story must be told. There must be no lies” (Silko p.42). It then becomes the principle of the girl who follows it strictly and even is willing to give up her freedom to defend it. At the end of the story, the attorney wants her to change her story to tell the court that “it was an accident” (Silko p.59), but the girl refuses, even though to follow his advice would mean freedom. She chooses to carry the legacy of the old storyteller and becomes a storyteller herself.

Besides her bonds with the old man, the girl also shares a grandmother-granddaughter pairing relationship with her grandmother. According to Leslie Marmon Silko, Native American woman has been “the tie that binds her and people together, transmitting her culture through story from generation to generation” (Charlene). In “Storyteller”, the girl receives another precious legacy from her grandmother, which is the story of her parents. Being acknowledged of her parents’ death, the girl enters more deeply into her family and her culture.

Another important perspective that “Storyteller” discusses is that storytelling can be seen as a way to seek identity, not only the identity of individual one but also the whole community. The creation story plays a significant role in Native American culture. Silko has pointed out that “the origin story functions basically as a maker of our identity—with the story we know who we are. Then from the idea of one’s identity as a tribal person, we can move into clan identity”.

The title story “Storyteller” could be seen as a story of identity-seeking journey. Important characters in “Storyteller” all have their stories. The girl’s grandmother has the story of the girl’s parents. The old man keeps telling the story of the bear. Those stories establish their role in family, in community and in humanity.

In the beginning, “the nameless girl is ignorant of her identity” (Ruppert). She has no story of her own to tell. She wonders about the world which confuses her with all kinds of conflicts and finds it hard to attain a place. She tries school but only has a harsh time when Gussucks tries to change and reform her in their way with their lifestyle and language. When her grandmother dies, the girl chooses to live with the old storyteller, which allows her defining herself in her own way. Grandma’s story about her parents’ death marks the beginning of her identity seeking since she decides to plan her own story from that moment. She listens very carefully to the old man’s story and uses tricks that she learns from it in creating her own story. She finds her place in the world as a daughter, a granddaughter, a Native American, a rebel and a creature of nature in her story-creating. And finally, she completes her identity journey by becoming a storyteller who insists telling the story “as it is” (Silko p.59).
Nevertheless, Pueblo community achieves its identity from story and storytelling. In the story, characters are bonded together by stories and they confirm their identity as a Native American seeing the world from the Pueblo perspective by storytelling. That’s how clan identity is confirmed.
Last but not the least, story can be seen as a weapon against “assimilation” which is not only refers to individualities but also the cultures.

Assimilation has embodied in the image of merging of the sky and ice. It is repeated several times throughout the story while playing a significant role in story developing. Silko suggests the theme concerning cultural assimilation and warns of the danger of it in the very beginning of the story by saying that “it wasn’t a good sign for the sky to be indistinguishable from the river ice, frozen solid and white against the earth” (Silko p.1). However, it seems that the old storyteller is the only one who notices it while other citizens have bent to it. He passes the information to the girl telling her that “ice will push across the sky” (Silko p.21).

The powerful weapon against it is storytelling. Silko emphasizes that the boundaries between the sky and ice are losing. Boundaries, according to Salyer, “are what form identity”. Keeping identity, as well as being distinguishable, is essential to keep a culture from losing itself in cultural assimilation.

However, it has been already discussed above that story is significant for an individual and a community to seek identity. Unlike other indifferent and confusing village people who have lost themselves in assimilation, grandma, the old man and the girl follow the Pueblo traditions, lifestyle and speak native language. Those are what define them and make them who they are. And most importantly, they find their way to defend these valuable things with storytelling. The old man’s story which are told with passion in a traditional way is a typical one of how Pueblo people get along with other creatures showing the Pueblo perspective of seeing and dealing with the nature. The story that grandma tells is an accusation of the wrongdoings and damage that the white bring. The girl tells her story of resisting assimilation and oppression of White culture.

Red that witnesses the story of her parents’ death has been used by the girl to mark the boundaries. “The east bank of the river was lost in the sky; the boundaries had been swallowed by the freezing white. And then, in the distance, she saw something red, and suddenly it was as she had remembered it all those years” (Silko 54). The victory of storytelling against assimilation has also been shown in the image of the sky and ice. When the girl insists telling the story in her own way after killing the storeman, she knows that “the ice descending from the sky” (Silko p.59). By telling the stories and telling it the way it should be, the Pueblo culture is able to survive.

“Storyteller” is a dark tale of racism and revenge but also of the integrity of stories and their tellers. It vividly and clearly presents the very essence of Silko’s works. Silko expresses, with grace and power through her melding of oral tradition and the written words in Storyteller, the sense of life being lived, of timeless and ongoing, changing and evolving, contradictory and continuous. Story, as the one of most important elements in her works and also in the tradition of Pueblo culture, can be seen as legacy that maintain the essence of traditional culture; as a way of seeking identity from being aware of the past and pursuing their present; as a weapon against assimilation of others and other cultures.

Works Cited
Blicksilver, Edith. “Traditionalism vs. Modernity: Leslie Silko on American Indian Woman”. Southwest Review 64.2 (1979): 149-160
Salyer, Gregory. “Storyteller: Spider-Woman’s Web”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997. 58-84.
Silko, Leslie. “Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Ruppert, Jim. “Storytelling: The Fiction of Leslie Silko”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Danielson, L. Linda. “A Feminist Reading of Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Reflective Companion Piece:

“Storyteller” is not an easy short story for reading. In order to understand it, information about the author and Native American culture and other research are needed. This paper is based on a close examination and full acknowledgment of cultural background. It also introduces other scholars’ opinions and interpretations with which the view of its own has been better demonstrated.

The paper is well-organized with an introduction part of the book and the short story, a brief literature review, self presentation and argumentation and conclusion. It makes a very clear thesis statement with simple words. Each view then is explained deliberately with detailed analysis of the text. It provides a comprehensive interpretation with the short story.