LeslieMarmon Silko’s Ceremony is afictional novel with the intent of healing the protagonist, Tayo, through aseries of stories, where he would find answers in the characters from thestories as part of his journey. Its ritual is represented in old traditionalevents that always repeat themselves, which means the result for every maincharacter is almost always the same. In Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage, the ritual is being reported firsthand and the conclusion is based on what evidence has been collected by RenatoRosaldo. His fieldwork on the Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage provided an insight on a ritualpractice that serves as a healing method to individuals that were dealing withrage and grief. Ethnography methods of collecting data vary with each anthropologist.Most fieldwork is done by communicating with certain cultures for a specifiedperiod like Renato Rosaldo.
In his article he tries to refrain from speculatingas to why the Ilongots headhunt. Going into the field is his article, andunlike fiction he can’t use his imagination because it is based on proof. Themost difficult information to capture were the emotions of the victims of griefand rage because in nature people do not open to the unknown. Therefore, theIlongot people did not give Rosaldo any visible emotions the way fictionwriters would. For example, after a man had lost his seventh child, the manconverted to Christianity for more guidance (Rosaldo, 169).
Rosaldo’s articledid not include if he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) orprovide us with any hard evidence to suggest otherwise. Personalexperience helps explain certain events that are beyond understanding. Todaypeople respond to an individual’s troubles by acting like they know what theyare going through. Renato Rosaldo experienced the tragedy of losing his wifeand his brother during his time with the Ilongot people. The void that his wifeleft couldn’t be filled.
When he said, “how could she abandon me? How could shehave been so stupid as to fall? I tried to cry. I sobbed, but rage blocked thetears” (Rosaldo, 171). It shows the power of first hand emotion and theimportance of a female character brought into the article.
This also gave himsome insight as to how the Ilongot felt, but did not give him the same desireto headhunt because he failed to conceive the force of anger. He describedhimself as being in denial of rage because he didn’t feel the same way theydid. (Rosaldo, 171). He said, “Although grief therapists routinely encourageawareness of anger among the bereaved, upper-middle-class Anglo-Americanculture tends to ignore the rage devastating losses can bring” (Rosaldo, 171),which he assumes has forced him not to understand other cultures or engage withthem to suggest otherwise.InGrief and a Headhunter’s Rage,Rosaldo was more concerned with as to why they performed such a gruesomeritual. For us to follow what Rosaldo wanted the audience to understand, wemust find a procedure relatable to headhunting. A funeral is one act that isinevitable.
Funerals are defined by most cultures as celebrations that aresymbolic and memorable after losing a loved one (Zimon, 46). Memorable in thesense that we show pictures and talk about the good they did before they leftand symbolic in the sense that we show some respect by dancing, crying, orsinging. The same concept with funerals is what Rosaldo is trying to put acrosswith what the Ilongots did to deal with the same loss.
He mentioned that, “Oncethe raiders kill their victim, they toss away the head rather than keep it as atrophy. In tossing away the head, they claim by analogy to cast away their lifeburdens, including the rage in their grief” (Rosaldo, 174). This quoterepresents the symbolic elements used by the Ilongots.
Instead of drinking ordancing, they prefer headhunting. Rosaldo’s article tries to defend how culturaldifference works. One person might feel headhunting is unthinkable, butconsider the act of committing suicide an acceptable way of dealing with grief.Another example would be how the Ilongots responded to Rosaldo being drafted tofight in the war. They were as scared of war the same way we fear headhunting.This shows the Ilongots own ignorance about the cultures that participate inkilling for their nation.
Withevery writing or fieldwork, there will be some critics among the readers toquestion the author’s work and main points. According to Paula Gunn Allen,”telling the old stories, revealing the old ways can only lead to disaster” (Allen, 384). This somewhat relates to Rosaldo’s workon the Ilongots. Cultural values are supposed to be kept sacred, but oncereported, they could be altered to satisfy the writers views. The audience thatreads Grief and a Headhunter’s Ragetoday could have the same response that Rosaldo had in the beginning because ofAnglo-American culture shielding us from understanding other cultural views.Another example, would be from Paul Rabinow’s Reflections on fieldwork in Morocco.
One of his informants wasrestricted from providing him with information simply because he was anoutsider. You must earn the trust of the community to be at least part of aconversation. Paula Gunn Allen mentioned, “an anthropologist, Elsie ClewsParsons, who went to Laguna to collect material for her study of Puebloreligion and social culture. They had given her information readily enough andeverything seemed fine.
But when Parsons published the material, Lagunas sawhow she treated their practices and beliefs, and they were horrified” (Allen,383). This example identifies the effects of an outsider reporting about aculture she knew nothing about. UnlikeRosaldo, Leslie Marmon Silko structures her novel as a ceremony, by beginningwith the sun and ending with the sun. The way she writes fiction gives readersthe capability to use their imagination to grow their sense of empathy for hercharacters. We notice this by the way she ends Tayo’s journey.
She sets it outfor the audience to believe that the world is different, and it might notalways be what it seems. This explains why she created this alternate realitythrough Ceremony. Her goal is toprovide readers with a new way of looking at certain customs, beliefs andcultures by giving them hope through imaginary characters. She creates ajourney for Tayo with the desire to draw her audience into engaging with everycharacter, but most importantly change the beliefs of her readers. Fictionallows readers to avoid challenging certain cultures, customs or beliefs thatnon-fiction or ethnography does. Silko might have an opinion about the NativeAmerican Culture, but voicing it out like Renato Rosaldo will be critiquedbecause not everyone will agree with what she has to say. By writing Ceremony, her voice can be heard becauseshe is not only using her imagination, but also includes part of her thoughtsabout the Native American tradition. Ceremony helpsus understand the history of Native Americans by portraying certain characterslike Tayo, the main character, as part of the traditional Laguna stories.
Thesecharacters that Silko created show her main concerns with the continuation ofthe Native American culture by suggesting a few changes. For example, shepresents her audience with Betonie, a medicine man that advises Tayo on what heneeds to do by referring to personal stories and ideas of change (Silko, 95).Betonie provided some insight as to why ceremonial change was necessary. Hesuggested that tradition is subject to change and for Tayo to be cured,adjustments needed to be made (Silko, 101). Silko also creates femalecharacters to be close to Tayo as part of his procedure. She uses them to exposehis strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly show the importance offemale roles in Laguna stories. Silko refers to Tayo as a mixed breed, whichallows Silko’s imagination to go either way.
Her fiction writing provides asense of self-awareness for Tayo’s character because she is trying to let theaudience know that Tayo is different from his Laguna community and whitecommunity. Her main point is that since Tayo is a mixed breed, new procedurescould not be avoided, hence the introduction of Betonie.Inmost cultures, communities do not change their customs for centuries becausethey are sacred to their people. Silko managed to combine these qualities asshe wrote Ceremony by incorporatingevents from personal experience to direct her novel.
Native Americans believedin using storytelling as their source of transferring culture (Silko, 85). SinceSilko was a Native American, her writing of Ceremonyprovides insight to those living in the 21st century as a roughdraft of what their customs involved. The idea she puts across from this novelis that events in this world always repeat themselves in one way or the other.
Rituals are also seen the same way because the rituals that were performed beforecan be used during a different occasion to cure a different scenario. LeslieMarmon Silko tries to help us understand what Tayo was going through bothemotionally and physically rather than just explaining the journey. After Tayoreturned from the war, Silko draws empathy from her audience sharing thefeelings that Tayo went through during that time. With Native Americans, thistype of ceremony is how they cope with PTSD. Since ritual is subjective, it hasbeen proven by both Silko and Rosaldo that only those within the culture willfully understand. For example, with Ceremony,before Tayo met with Betonie, he was sent to Old man Ku’oosh, a medicine man (Silko,92). He wasn’t familiar with the changes in the ritual, but he was involvedwith the ritual.
The main point Silko is making is that Old man Ku’oosh understoodthe ritual and knew Tayo needed some help. She creates an understanding betweentwo medicine men and Tayo to make a point about changes in customs. Therefore,each person created by Silko serves a significant purpose in the completion ofthe ceremony to symbolize the effectiveness of fiction writing. Firsthand stories and information can provide better knowledge of certain cultures.
The success of a fiction novel depends on the lie created, is it related andunderstandable. If people can’t relate to your pain, no one will understand whatyou are going through. Leslie’s fictional writing challenges the reader’s thinkingby changing ideas they had about certain cultures. The audience moves in thesame direction as Ceremony. Forexample, if Silko’s wants the audience to be nonjudgmental towards ritualpractices, the audience will lean towards that end after reading her novel. Withanthropology, the audience becomes the jury based on the evidence provided. Ifthe audience despises killing acts, whatever Rosaldo presents on his article isless likely to change their verdict.
As a writer, he tried to give his personalexperience and urged to audience to think of it the way he did. Although henever engaged in the same practices, he managed to stray away from heavilyimplying that the Ilongots were indeed savages. He was more cautious about hisreport.
Inconclusion, both writers brought meaning to their works by relating ritual totheir personal experience. This also helped the audience understand more aboutthese two cultures because it was relatable to the writers. They managed toproduce successful writings despite their different beliefs. This was whatseparated Silko from Rosaldo because one was aware of what she was creatingwhile considering the emotions of what she was writing about, and the other wasreporting facts without understanding the reasons behind them.