The Fluidity of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Language

“He walked down floors that smelled of old wax and disinfectant, watching the outlines of his feet; as he walked, the days and seasons disappeared into a twilight at the corner of his eyes, a twilight he could catch only with a sudden motion, jerking his head to one side for a glimpse of green leaves pressed against the bars on the window.  He inhabited a gray winter fog on a distant elk mountain where hunters are lost indefinitely and their own bones mark the boundaries.”  These two sentences at the bottom of page 13 are two of the countless examples of the fluid metaphysical prose that makes up the first half of Ceremony.  Leslie Marmon Silko has an impeccable way of capturing all things tragic and all things beautiful in the same breath.  The amount of imagery and metaphor in these two sentences alone is astounding.  You are taken on a journey of the imagination from a hospital to the moment of sunset to a wild mountain region too savage for mankind.  Silko represents Tayo’s relationship with nature, as shown in these two sentences as well as many more, as one of a fluid intertwining.  There were lots of instances in which I imagined Tayo’s image as not having clear boundaries with his surroundings, but instead, kind of morphing into them.  I think these representations align with the discussion that mankind and nature exist in such a way that one cannot be defined independently of or separated from the other.

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One Response to The Fluidity of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Language

  1. Katie says:

    Your statement that mankind and nature seem to be fluidly intertwined within the novel and that Tayo’s image doesn’t always have clear boundaries with his surroundings is so well captured by the section you have pointed out, although I would look more specifically at Tayo’s statement that “For a long time he had been white smoke” (13). The lines you have quoted here all extend the metaphor of Tayo feeling and existing as more of a smoke form than a human form. I think the sentence, “If they had not dressed him and led him to the car, he would still be there, drifting along the north wall, invisible in the gray twilight,” perfectly captures this ambiguous connection between human and nature, as it contains the very human, civilized characteristics of getting dressed and riding in cars with the amorphous characteristic of mist and twilight. This idea is continued on page 14, with the odd conversation between Tayo and the doctors about being invisible, “The new doctor asked him if he had ever been visible, and Tayo spoke to him softly and said that he was sorry but nobody was allowed to speak to an invisible one. This line again blurs the boundary between human and nature, as Tayo is obviously capable of thoughts and speaking, but physically he feels he either is fog or is lost inside fog. Both of these examples provide a sort of solution to Kate Soper’s problem with most ecocritical works and nature writing, as they meld together the human and nonhuman instead of focusing on “otherness.” However, it could be argued that Tayo is given this amorphous description as a way to show how he is no longer quite part of the human realm (that he is now an “other”) due to the tragic effects of his war experience.