Characterization and Symbolism in "Yellow Woman" Essay
1107 WordsApr 17th, 20135 Pages
Characterization and Symbolism in “Yellow Woman” In the short story “Yellow Woman”, Leslie Marmon Silko uses characterization and symbolism to address personal and cultural identity. After reading “Yellow Woman”, a sense of mystery is imposed on the reader. Much of the story centers on the identity of the two main characters with issues of duty and desires, social obligations, and the human and spiritual worlds. Taking place in 1970’s New Mexico, the author reveals the aesthetic beauty of a Native American homeland and culture through detail and color. The story begins with an ambiguous protagonist/narrator identified as Yellow Woman who is trapped between a dreamlike world and reality. Her naivety is revealed at the start when…show more content…
Silva’s obscure identity is questioned by Yellow Woman throughout the story. The reader doesn’t exactly know who he really is and he gives Yellow Woman vague answers to her simple questions: “Little Yellow Woman”, he said, “you never give up, do you? I have told you who I am. The Navajo people know me too” (Silko 765). Silva was the one who addressed the narrator as Yellow Woman giving her a sense of identity and confusion because of the myth she remembered her grandfather told her. Silva could possibly be the ka’tsina spirit that lives in the mountains or just a stranger she met, the readers will never know for sure and neither will Yellow Woman. Later in the story, Silva and Yellow Woman both take meat that Silva claimed he stole to sell to the Mexicans. Silva informs Yellow Woman about the limitations and boundaries that are set upon the Native Americans: “The Navajo reservation begins over there”. He pointed to the east. “The Pueblo boundaries are over there”. He looked below us to the south, where the narrow trail seemed to come from. “The Texans have their ranches over there, starting with that valley, the Concho Valley. The Mexicans run some cattle over there too” (Silko 765).
While crossing the valley, a white rancher spots and questions them. Silva tells Yellow Woman to leave him with the white rancher. She does so and rides away, hearing four gun-shots. In
Reviews 171 learns the long-forgotten “vocabulary of the secret senses.” The Hundred Secret Senses can provide a field day for scholars of vari ous interests. The issues of cultural hybridity, displacement, binarism, and rep resentation would be interesting to post-colonial studies. As usual, Tan offers a challenge to humor studies in that the humor comes from cultural, linguistic clashes. The magic realism and the binary opposition between Olivia and Kwan, between Western pragmatism and Eastern mystic wisdom , should be on the menu for post-modern cultural studies. Some critics have criticized Tan for subscribing to the Western imperial perception of Asia, and this novel certain ly proves they are right. N onetheless, Tan deserves credit for writing readable and entertaining fiction about our biological language, a language we ignore in favor of logic. SEIWOONG OH R ider U niversity Yellow Woman and a Beauty o f the Spirit: Essays on N ative American Life Today. By L eslie Marmon Silko. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. 205 pages, $23.00.) In this som etim es rambling, occasionally brilliant collection o f essays, Silko ranges from musings on the sensual power of Yellow Woman to a seem ingly pointless reprinting of a letter she once mailed to a reader who wrote to notify her of several typos in the first edition of Sacred Water. Silko’s passionate, alm ost holy rage against the abuse of native peoples and the earth is evident throughout, though her voice occasionally slips into the strident and cliched. In “Fences Against Freedom,” she rails against the racism exhibited by “the elected leaders of the United States and their sluttish hand maidens, the big television networks.” Though overall the prose here rarely reaches the luminous clarity of Ceremony or the sheer poetic power of Storyteller, there are plenty of moments of profound insight and deeply personal reflection about those things which both destroy and unite Indian comm unities. In one of the strongest essays in the collection, “The People and the Land ARE Inseparable,” Silko writes of dis covering two Yaqui enclaves hidden in the urban sprawl o f Tucson. In front of the Yaqui houses, “Corn, beans, melons, roses, zinnias, and sunflowers all grow together,” she says, noting dryly, “there are no law ns.” “I thought it must be very difficult,” she continues, “to exist as a Yaqui village within the city limits of Tucson. These were my thoughts because I had just moved to Tucson from Laguna, and I was thinking about what it means to be separated from one’s hom eland.” The grief of separation— cultural, racial, linguistic, and geographic— shad ows all the essays. Earlier, Silko had written of the anguish and confusion she 172 Western American Literature felt as a child when white tourists, gathered at the playground of her grade school to take snapshots o f Indian children, would motion her to step aside, out of the picture, because her skin was too light. Always it is the land which soothes this sorrow. For Silko, peace conies in the form of the relationship she establishes with the rocks and rattlesnakes outside her home in the Tucson Mountains. For the Yaquis, driven from their Sonoran homelands, it is “this shared consciousness of being part of a living community that continues . . . beyond the death of one or even of many, that continues on the riverbanks of the Santa Cruz after the mountains have been left behind.” SARA L. SPURGEON U niversity of A rizona M ediation in Contem porary N ative American Fiction. By James Ruppert. (Norman: University o f Oklahoma Press, 1995. 174 pages, $29.95.) Based on his experience teaching both Alaskan Native and non-Native stu dents, Ruppert theoretically frames his concept of m ediation and then uses it to analyze six novels: M omaday’s House M ade o f D awn, W elch’s Winter in the Blood, Silko’s Ceremony, V izenor’s Bearheart: The H eirship Chronicles, M cN ickle’s Wind from an Enemy Sky, and Erdrich’s Love M edicine. By m edia tion, Ruppert means “an artistic and conceptual standpoint, constantly flexible, which uses the epistem ological frameworks of Native American...