Leslie Marmon Silko and LouiseErdrich
Compare and contrast the writing of. How do these writersdepictions of the Native American experience in America differ? Whatcommonalities do they share? You should use multiple literaryelements to support your argument.
Despite the common ancestral backgrounds between Leslie Marmon Silkoand Louise Erdrich, the writings of the two authors indicatedifferences in their literary elements. Silko and Erdrich are bothgifted Native American writers whose work through history hasreceived much attention from readers as well as critics. Some of thecritics of the works of these two authors have supported theirliteracy approaches while others have questioned their authenticityin the messages that they pass to the readers. These two authors haveboth attempted to convey to the world on the life that NativeAmericans led to the reservation (Cummings, 2006). The works of thesewriters compare the lives within and beyond the reservations centershence capturing the attention of readers on the mistreatments thatNative Americans had to undergo through. This analysis, however,focuses on the difference that is evident from the writings of thesetwo Native American writers.
Conflict in cultural and religious beliefs is quite clear when itcomes to the writings of the two Native American authors LeslieMarmon Silko and Louise Erdrich. Silko’s books give vividillustrations on how the author is worried about the erosion theNative culture and religious beliefs. Erdrich, on the other hand,seems to embrace the difference in religious beliefs and culturebetween the Natives and Christians as the author illustrates indifferent ways for coexistence between the two cultures (Cummings,2006). Silko’s work shows the adverse effects of the cultural andreligious erosion while Erdrich’s work focuses on the day to daylives of the native after the mutual understanding between differentcultures.
Louise Erdrich, a captivating Native American writer that haspresented the heritage of the culture of the Native Americans in herwritings. The author acquaints readers with the world of traditionsand spirituality of Native Americans that is entirely different fromthe readers’ (Cummings, 2006). The author was born in North Dakota.Hence, most of her writings concern the reservations of Ojibwe inNorth Dakota. Erdrich’s novels Tracks and The Last Report on theMiracles at Little No Horse are novels that the Native Americanauthor has used to uncover the rigidity between the nativespirituality of the Native Americans and Christianity. The storiesexplore the influence and the impacts that these two different faithshave on the natives that live in the reservation areas (Cotham,2008). Erdrich argues that that through Christianity, the lives ofthe citizens living on the reservations were given a course. Aftermoving to the reservations, the lives of most Native Americans wereplaced in a dilemma between the native spirituality and Christianity.However, due to the continuous interaction between the two cultures,the different beliefs were able to meet in one place of the heartsand minds of the people. Native Americans were, as a result, able toget a sense of life due to the mixing of the two cultures. ThroughErdrich, a reader gains insight on how both cultures have affectedeach other hence the influence is not only one sided.
Erdrich’s writings focus on the day to day lives of her charactersas readers can follow the characters in the author’s books fromdifferent perspectives. The characters in Tracks and The Last Reporton the Miracles at Little No Horse have been illustrated in variouslife events and times. Readers can view this characters through theirown eyes by vividly understanding the occurrences in their lives.Readers can follow the constitutional changes of the characters asthe stories are set within a time frame of different years (Cotham,2008). Additionally, the stories have mains characters who are drawnfrom rich families within the stories. The lives of these individualsare illustrated through intermingling with different characters. Thestories develop with the revelation of new truths and characterqualities hence determining the importance of these characteristicsto the different novel. In the novel Tracks, the Native Americanauthor has been able to narrate the day to day stories of Nanapushand Pauline Puyat despite the fact that she tries to incorporatereligion and culture. In the novel The Last Report on the Miracles atLittle No Horse, the author still narrates the lives of theindividuals who live on the reservations and how they influence eachother through their different cultures and religious beliefs.
Analysis of Silko’s novel, Ceremony, the author focuses on cultureand religion more that they day to day lives of her characters. TheNative America author views the religion of the natives as sacred andhence consider the attempt of outsiders to involve themselves withthe religion as an invasive and offensive acts to the natives(McMichael & Leonard, 2011). The arcane stories, ceremonies andall the religious and cultural aspects of the Native American tribesare viewed as sacred. As a result, the author depicts the whites orthe Americans who try to understand the natives’ sacred religion asintruders. The Americans are viewed as enemies of the reach culturesand religious beliefs as their involvement seeks to erode the rootsof the natives within the reservations.
Leslie Marmon Silko has been able to elaborate the differencesbetween the indigenous religious and cultural beliefs and theAmerican religious and cultural beliefs. In the Ceremony, Silko hasbeen able to illustrate the differences in culture vividly when itcomes to nature, materialism, the concept of time as well as theownership and possession of property. Whites have been viewed asdestructive to nature, intrusive and racists. For instance, Tayo seesthe lion he finds on the ranch of the two white inhabitants as abeautiful part of life and hence should not be tampered with under nocircumstances. However, the whites force Tayo to kill the animal astheir reward as they do not value nature and are willing to destroylife at all costs. Erdrich and Silko tend to focus on differentperspectives when it comes to culture and religion. Erdrichconcentrates on the new culture that her characters are adopting tobut does not seem to be worried about the cultural erosion that istaking place (McMichael & Leonard, 2011). Silko, on the otherhand, is however very concerned on the cultural and religiouserosions that occur with the European involvement with the culturesof the natives.
The concept of togetherness and unity amongst characters within’s writings have beendepicted differently. The characters with Silko’s stories andnarrations shows increased aspects of unity and togetherness amongstcommunity members. On the other hand, the writings of Erdrichindicate minimum instances if togetherness hence there is no sense ofcommunity in her stories. Silko’s writing, therefore, tend toinform readers about the importance of love amongst community membersto protect the strong and sacred cultural and religious beliefs andpractices (McMichael & Leonard, 2011). Erdrich, on the otherhand, does not emphasize on togetherness as according to her stories,through the blending of different cultures, a community develops in abetter place.
In Silko’s Ceremony, a sense of community is portrayed throughvarious services held within the story. The natives can educate andpass information to each other through different storytellingceremonies. The storytelling ceremonies are public events and henceinvolves different and varied members of individuals within thecommunity. The characters in the story attempt to disseminate theculture of the natives by destroying the different culture of thenatives (Ideri, 2004). However, the traditions of the nativeinhabitants of the setting in the above story continue to replenishtheir culture through various traditional ceremonies. The residentsemphasize on a sense of togetherness within the reservations toprotect themselves from the corrosion through the white cultures.Ceremonies are a result held to continuously modify and upgrade theirculture of the natives against the demands of the western cultures. Asense of togetherness and community is again portrayed when thewhites organize ceremonies that are solely aimed at entertaining themembers of the society. Through the ceremonies held by the whites,their agenda to erode the culture of the natives is henceeffortlessly accomplished. The citizens fight against the plan of thewhites through a strong sense of community and togetherness allthrough the story.
Erdrich writings on the Track, on the other hand, concert rate on theindividual lives of the characters within the story. The story doesnot illustrate on significant occurrences within the society that islikely to bring togetherness and a sense of belonging amongst thedwellers within the community (Cotham, 2008). The story has not aswell presented instance of critical issues that resulted in membersof the community coming together to come up with different solutionsto their problems. As a result, Track as a story has specificallyconcentrated on the individual lives of the member of the society.
The literature stylistic devices that Leslie Marmon Silko and LouiseErdrich have used in their writings indicate differences in theauthors’ preferences. Through the varied stylistic devices, theseauthors have been able to capture the attentions of their readers.The literature methods have made it possible to rely successfully onthe message as intended for the readers. The literature elements thathave been adopted by this author include symbolism, folklore,ceremonial rituals, storytelling, songs, rhetoric characters andnarration amongst other stylistic devices (Cummings, 2006). Throughthese stylistic devices, the author has been able to show thedifference between the white culture and the cultures of the NativeAmericans.
The ability to understand the differences between Native and Westernstorytelling is a concept that Leslie Marmon Silko has successfullyused for the reader to understand the difference between the whiteand the native’s culture. Silko vividly explains the differencebetween the real views and habits and those of the Americans(McMichael & Leonard, 2011). In the Ceremony, Silko has useddifferent symbols in different instances. The Gallup Ceremonial isused to symbolize the ways that the whites have interfered andcorroded the tradition of the natives (Ideri, 2004). Due to thewhite’s misunderstandings of the indigenous culture, the whiteshave misappropriated the traditions for their purposes and benefits.The whites are therefore symbolized as ignorant and intrusive. Thesacred tradition of the natives demands that ceremonies are performedduring special occasions during the year. The white on the other handhave decided to use the real ceremonial performances for entirelyceremonial purposes.
Erdrich has used different symbolisms in her story, Tracks. Symbolismhas been used to portray the characters of Fleur as she describes theold long hair. Fleur does not conform to colonization and is henceviewed as the bear. According to the native tradition of the authorof the story, the bear symbolizes strength and courage. The bear isalso the conductor between different worlds and cultures. Fleur istherefore expressed as a robust and courageous character that is alsoa driver between different worlds. As a result, due to hercharacterization, the two cultures within the story are easilyreconcilable (Cotham, 2008).
The storytelling patterns that Erdrich and Silko have used arediverse and differ. In Track, Erdrich uses traditional animalfolklore to develop her characters through evil forces, love medicineand Christianity. The Native American authors use traditional animalfolklore for her character Fleur. Fleur is in labor for two days andas a result, she starts calling the animals to signify her power. The use of bear as a symbolism of power is also folklore concept ofstorytelling. The story has associated different animals at variouscharacters with the owl being related to fear amongst many others.The storytelling patterns that have been used by Silko on Ceremony,on the other hand, has involved the use of poetry, rhymes andfamiliar storytelling trends (Ideri, 2004). The Native Americanauthor has also used the Western narrative tradition through the useof continuous pros in her stories. Through the utilization of bothtraditional and the storytelling of the west patterns, Silko assertsthat her story can as well be used as a base for blending the nativeand the western cultures. The pros and the poetry employed by theauthor have combined smoothly hence successfully conveying theintended messages to the readers.
The differences in the themes within the stories Ceremony and Trackhas been able to portray the differences in the literature andwritings of . Magic is a themethat is evident all through Track, a story by Erdrich. The story hasbeen used to convey to the reader on how robust and powerful thenative culture is in nature (McMichael & Leonard, 2011). On thesame note, magic has been used to convey how the native culture caneasily blend with the western culture. Religion and spirituality areanother themes entirely evident in Track. The idea of religion andspirituality has been able to portray the shared beliefs as well asthe differences between the native religion and the western religion.The struggle for survival is another dominant theme in Track. Thecharacters within the story are survivors of the harsh environment aswell as the historical reality and influences (Cotham, 2008).
When it comes Silko’s Ceremony, the importance of storytelling is apredominant theme. The context of the story informs readers on thetraditional methods of storytelling. In the story, the elders withinthe community pass information to other generations throughstorytelling. Storytelling is hence viewed as an extreme communalevent within the native culture. The destructiveness of contactsbetween different cultures is another dominant theme in the story.The Ceremony elaborates how the contact between the natives and thewhites in various ceremonies presents devastating effects on thecharacters within the story (Ideri, 2004). The necessity of traditionis another theme in Ceremony. The story portrays how the preservingthe native tradition is essential for saving the rich culture of theNative Americans. The medicine men within the story have a task ofkeeping the rich native religion. The characters tradition within thestory reveals on the needs for the reinvention to reflect theever-changing world.
Native American writers whonot only present the Native American world within the reservationsbut also show the differences between the American and indigenouscultures by the use of various literature approaches. These authorshave both been very successful in explaining and illustrating totheir readers the differences when it comes to the lives of thewhites and the Native Americans. Silko emphasizes on the erosion oftheir culture and religious beliefs. She believes that the nativeculture is sacred hence the whites should not attempt to be part ofthe religious culture of the natives. Silko additionally believes oncommunalism. Erdrich, on the other hand, believes in the whiteculture and religion hence allows her characters to interchange theircultures. Therefore, Erdrich can be viewed to be more open to mixedculture compared to Silko.
Cotham, L. (2008). Culture Clash:Ojibwe Identity in Erdrich’s Track. Reasonand Respect, (4)1, 6-16.
Cummings, D. K. (2006). Studies in American Indian Literatures.Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 65-90
Ideri, Y. I. (2004). TheRainbow Across the Boundaries:A Study of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony.Montana, USA.
McMichael, G., & Leonard, J. S.(Eds.). (2011). ConciseAnthology of American Literature(7th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.