Tayo’s memory of a deer hunt before World War II (Ceremony, pp. 46–48) reveals opposing perspectives of the dominant and traditional culture. This scene demonstrates that Rocky is the exact opposite of Tayo: “Rocky turned away from them and poured water from the canteen over his bloody hands. He was embarrassed at what they did. He knew when they took the deer home, it would be laid out on a Navajo blanket, and old grandma would put a string of turquoise around its neck.”1 Rocky was Taayo’s cousin, and they were close like brothers. Rocky was the type of person who does not believe in any traditional ways because he thought that following traditional way would keep him away from success. Tayo used a modern object (his jacket) in following the old tradition of covering the deer’s head. His act demonstrated how ceremonies can be adapted to modern life. Rocky’s question of why Tayo covered the deer’s head is unrelated to the action. The question is about the meaning of the ritual, asking why respecting the deer is necessary when humans have tools that make them more powerful than nature. Rocky was critical of the Laguna “superstition and preferred scientific lessons taught by white teachers at school. The teachers told him, “Don’t let the people at home hold you back.” By the standards of these good white people, Rocky was on the verge of success, if only he could avoid being held back by the primitive traditions of his community. Rocky was interested in the Anglo definitions of success. He received a football scholarship, and the entire family was delighted and proud that he was the first to enter college. Some of Rocky’s family members, such as his grandma, didn’t like his avoidance of the traditional ways. Nevertheless, the others, 1 Leslie MarmonSilko, Ceremony (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. New York: Penguin Books, 2020) 47.
such as his aunt, never scolded him. She knew that in order to progress, one must surrender to the ideals and demands of the white world, that is, the superior culture.
In this passage, Rocky’s action and reaction, according to Theda Wrede,2 reflect the “colonizing culture’s attitude toward nature.” Rocky is educated and athletic, characteristics that represent modernity and progress.
In contrast, Tayo, the son of an unknown white man and a Laguna woman, advocated the Native American ways of life and preferred tribal life to his personal life. Although both were enlisted in the war, their perspectives and thus their actions were opposite. They had different perspectives on their respective military obligations. Rocky joined the army because he was devoted to white culture and viewed white civilization as more advanced and richer than the Laguna society. He considered the spilling of blood as part of his job as an American soldier, whereas Tayo found himself unable to perform severe instructions, such as shooting a Japanese.
Rocky died in the war, and Tayo came back home. Rocky’s passing is an especially harsh indictment of white culture, which, despite its creativity and advancement, can only result in destruction.
1.Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. PenguinClassics Deluxe Edition.New York: Penguin Books, 2020.
2.Theda, Wrede. Myth and Environment in Recent Southwestern Literature:Healing Narratives. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014.
2 Wrede Theda, Myth and Environment in Recent Southwestern Literature: Healing Narratives
(Lanham, Lexington Books, 2014), 181.