Analysis of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
An essay I wrote a few years back for school on the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, particularly dealing in the identity of the 'destroyers'.

Submitted: May 21, 2013

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Submitted: May 21, 2013



The Destroyers
The destroyers are mentioned often in the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, but it is never clearly stated who or what the destroyers are. The Native American people blame the destroyers for what is wrong with the world and with people and they are often implied to be the source of conflict in the book, but don’t have a set appearance or physical form.
Firstly, the destroyers in the book are an abstract concept, but still manage to cause disharmony in the world. “Their highest ambition is to gut human beings while they are still breathing, to hold the heart still beating so the victim will never feel anything again.” (Silko 229). The use of that quote is to display how the destroyers aren’t humans themselves, but instead cause the humans to lose their sense of sympathy. They attempt to lure in people so that they can plant their seeds of discontent within them and spread their hatred.
Next, the destroyers are also closely associated with the witches. A story about the witches reveals how they had gotten together and had contests for who could do the darkest trick. “Long time ago/ in the beginning/ there were no white people in this world/ there was nothing European.” (Silko 132-133) At the beginning of the meeting only Native Americans exist, but that changes when a witch comes forward to tell a story and create the white people. “Set in motion now set in motion by our witchery to work for us.” (Silko 135). It is implied that the witch is a destroyer in disguise and created the white people as a tool to destroy the Native Americans. The creation of white people is used metaphorically to say that the destroyers didn’t actually create people with white skin, but they created social disharmony amongst the people to get them to see everyone in racial categories like “white” or “black” or “colored”, rather then just being the human race.  
Lastly, another figure that the destroyers are associated with is the Gambler. The story tells about a figure named the Gambler that steals storm clouds and kills the people that attempt to retrieve them. Eventually the Sun Man, with help from Ts’its’tsi’nako retrieves the storm clouds. This mirrors Tayo’s life in structure and characters. This is shown in The Kaupata Motif in Silko’s Ceremony by Robert M. Nelson. “On this axis, Tayo and Sun Man are homologues, as are the spotted cattle and the stormclouds, Texan Floyd Lee and Kaupata, the two redneck fence riders and Kaupata’s guard ducks, and of course Ts’eh and Ts’its’tsi’nako” (Nelson 2) The destroyers manifest themselves in Floyd Lee, who promotes the disharmony. “The white man, Floyd Lee, called it a wolf-proof fence; but he had poisoned and shot all the wolves in the hills, and the people knew what the fence was for: a thousand dollars a mile to keep Indians and Mexicans out; a thousand dollars a mile to lock the mountain in steel wire, to make the land his.” (Silko 188) Floyd Lee segregates the land and keeps all the Native Americans and Mexicans out, displaying how the destroyers take their form in him. Since Floyd Lee is homologous to the Gambler, then the destroyers are too. At the end of the myth, however, the Gambler is not killed. “He took the flint blade/ and he cut out the Gambler’s eyes” (Silko 176) Rather then killing the Gambler and becoming the same, Sun Man instead  chose to let him live. This is later reflected in the story where Tayo doesn’t kill Emo when he is torturing Harley. “The screwdriver was slippery in his hands. It nauseated him to see Harely’s body jerking and twitching in the sagging barbed wire, wit hands and knives so greedy for human flesh.” (Silko 251) The destroyers take form again in Emo, when he is hurting Harley in attempt to lure Tayo in. However, Tayo takes the path of the Sun Man and chooses not to kill Emo and let the destroyers get to him. The fact that Tayo refuses to take revenge shows how he has completed his ceremony and wasn’t lured in by the destroyers.
In conclusion, the destroyers in Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko are the forces of hate and separation that are manifested in several human beings throughout the story, rather then just being solely the white people that are the destroyers or solely the witches or anybody else. They use people as tools to spread disharmony and lack of emotion throughout the human race.

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