Individuality Versus Community in Leslie Marmon Silko’S Ceremony and Barbara Kingsolver’S Animal Dreams

The role of the individual and their relationship with the community is an important thematic issue that is observed in the works of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams. The authors deal with individuals who have been dislocated from the community that eventually saves them from disintegration. Structurally, both novels are very different despite setting their protagonists on a journey of self-discovery that takes them through the American Southwest using memory flashbacks and Native American Mythology.

Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony uses the protagonist Tayo to tell his story but the narrative is disturbed by analepsis memories, initially when he is still ‘sick’; the narrative is also disrupted by Silko’s use of myth, both traditional Native American Myth and contemporary interpretations of the myth form.   The Hummingbird myth is a continuous yet interrupted tale of a society who has been tricked into ignoring its own roots and has to make amends to the Mother Spirit before healing can begin. Nelson refers to this myth as the backbone of the story and how it acts like ‘trail markers’ for the reader (2001 p4) so the tale foreshadows Tayo’s story of damnation from his Native American roots by his family and himself. It is only his journey through the ceremony of purification that he connects with his roots and therefore begins to heal himself and his community.

Silko allows two women, who are minor female characters, to assume the narrative. Night Swan takes up the narrative after we have been introduced to her via Josiah and the spotted cattle episode. She recounts her past through the story of her lover’s death and the power of the dance, here she gives an example of magic; perhaps there is a parallel to the Green Fly who has been introduced into the song narrative.   Much later Helen-Jean takes over the narrative after Tayo has returned from his incomplete ceremony when Harley, Leroy and Helen-Jean pick him up on his way...