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Now And Then " A Raisin In The Sun

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Overview of Silko's "The Man to Send Rain clouds"

Leslie Marmon Silko's short story "The Man to Send Rain clouds" shows the

differences between organized religion and the beliefs of the Native American people in a

way that most would not be able. Arguing that the relationship between Native American

and Mexican American cultures has often been ignored but these practices are evident in

the fiction of Leslie Marmon Silko.

Born 1948 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, of mixed ancestry - by her own description

Laguna, Pueblo, Mexican, and white - Leslie Marmon Silko grew up on the Laguna

Pueblo Reservation, where members of her family had lived for generations, and where

she learned traditional stories and legends from female relatives. Silko's first published

book is the collection of poems Laguna Woman (1974) which draws richly upon her

tribal ancestry (Abcarian 1568.) Silko writes, "You don't have anything if you don't have

the stories" (Mitchell 28). While still in college Silko wrote and published a short

story "The Man to Send Rain Clouds." For this story she was awarded with the National

Endowment for the Humanities Discovery Grant (Seyersted 18.)

The strength of tribal traditions is based not on Indians' rigid adherence to given

ceremonies or customs but rather on their ability to adapt traditions to ever changing

circumstances by incorporating new elements. As in this short, story the younger Indians

not only honor their ancestor's beliefs but also incorporate the new beliefs being taught in the village by the Spanish priest. They blend both sets of beliefs by burying the grandfather in the way of their ancestors yet giving him a sprinkling of Holy water as he is placed in the grave. In doing these things they hope to provide him with enough water to let him help them by sending rain clouds to them as he passes from one realm to another.

Throughout the story, Silko weaves into the narrative the ancient myths of the

Navajo and Pueblo tribes, their ceremonies, and rituals. For Native Americans, these

stories concern the universe and the spiritual domain. They are didactic because they

teach the history of the people, how to live, and how to survive. According to Allen,

"myth is a story of vision;...a vehicle of transmission of sharing and renewal." It

connects the past with the present. Silko's myths "show us that it is possible to relate

ourselves to the grand and mysterious universe that surrounds and informs our

being....The mythic heals, it makes us whole" (Allen 1986, 116-17).

Ceremonies are the ritual enactment of the myths, that is, the actual telling of

the stories by the shaman or storyteller. I will tell you something about the stories,

[he said] They aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled. They are all we have, you

see, all we have to fight off illness and death. And in the belly of this story the

rituals and the ceremony are still growing (Mitchell 28.)

Location, or "place," nearly always plays a central role in the Pueblo oral narratives.

Indeed, stories are most frequently recalled as people are passing by a specific

geographical feature or the exact place where a story takes place.... The Emergence was

an emergence into a precise cultural identity.... The eight miles, marked with boulders,

mesas, springs, and river crossings, are actually a ritual circuit or path which

marks the interior journey the Laguna people made: a journey of awareness and

imagination in which they emerged from being within the earth and from everything

included in earth to the culture and people, differentiating themselves for the first time

from all that had surrounded them, always aware that interior distances cannot be

reckoned in physical miles or calendar years.... Thus, the journey was an interior process

of the imagination, a growing awareness that being human is somehow different from all

other life--animal, plant, and inanimate. Yet we are all from the same source: the

awareness never deteriorated into Cartesian duality, cutting off the human from the

natural world (Silko 83.) Even so the sheep camp has significance to Teofio, this is the

place that he has chosen to die but also the place that he is most likely extremely familiar

with. As in many cultures, the young boys and the old men are sent off to tend the sheep

to have time to reflect on life and to learn from each other.

Though not directly spoken between the two younger men at the beginning of the story

there seems to be an understanding that their grandfather has passed on to the next realm.

To me it appears quite strange that they would wait a couple of day s to begin to search



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