By Leslie Marmon Silko
The novel, Ceremony, tells the story of a young man, a former fighter in World War two, who returns home and seek to find healing from the emotional and physical wounds attained at war. Tayo, the main character in the book, takes a journey back home with the aim of achieving all of this, but when he finally gets home, he is confronted with past experiences with family and friends. At first, Tayo seeks for healing at the veteran hospital, but when he realizes that the hospital is not providing him with what he wants, he opts to leave the hospital and go back to his grandparents home. He believes that being back home with his grandparents will assist him deal with is issues but he realizes that this is not the case when he sinks into depression and drug abuse. In response to this, his grandmother seeks the help of a medicine man to perform a ceremonial ritual to help him heal. He engages in a number of ceremonies until he attains the healing he requires.
This paper examines the theme of hybridity in the novel ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. More specifically, the paper examines the different ways in which the theme of hybridity has been brought out in the novel, while drawing attention to the blending of poetry and prose, storytelling, mixed heritage, hazel eyes, and healing at the Veterans hospital and ceremony.
Theme of Hybridity
Hybridity is a mixture of two or more phenomena considered different and separate from each other. Put, it is the process whereby two things become separated from their inherent practices, and recombine to form new practices. The theme of hybridity has widely been used in literature to signify a transformation from the old into the new, through amalgamation. The new hybrid forms that develop through this combination indicate the profound changes that occur as a consequence of hybridization. These changes can either be positive or negative depending on the nature of the change that has taken place. This, therefore, implies that hybridity changes how things used to be, as well as, how they are viewed by the society. In the novel, Ceremony, hybridity has been revealed in a number of ways. Readers are exposed to hybridity from the beginning of the book all the way to the end. Specifically, the theme of hybridity in the novel is brought out in various ways including storytelling, blending of poetry and prose, mixed heritage, hazel eyes, and healing at the Veterans hospital and ceremony.
Hybridity in Storytelling
In the novel, Ceremony, storytelling is not only a theme on its own; it is also used to bring out the theme of hybridity. Evidently, the novel is centered on the main character Tayo, and his return home from World War II. However, in the development of the novel’s plot, the author interweaves the stories of other individuals, such as Tayo’s friends and his community at large. Tayo’s story is unique and individually appealing, but the development of the novel into what it is could not have been possible if the author did not integrate the stories of others. In addition, Tayo, the main character in the book, seeks to find healing from his experiences, something he can only achieve with his friends. Accordingly, the combination of the different stories in the book, leads to the creation of the novel, which is the hybrid in this particular case. Each character in the book has an individual story regarding his or her experiences, and the combination of these stories demonstrates the greatest form of hybridity in the novel.
Blending of poetry and prose
The second and most evident form of hybridity in the novel is brought out through the combination of poetry and prose in the novel. In essence, the author uses these two storytelling techniques to expose to the readers the two main cultures that are central in the story, including the native Americans and the communities from the West. Both the two techniques are significant to one culture with the poetry style signifying the storytelling patterns in native America, whereas the prose signifies storytelling in the West. Through a combination of these two techniques, the author affirms the combination of cultures as the main content of the novel. In the story, the two cultures constantly clash with each other, though in the end, they come together to form a culture that is a combination of both but distinctively different from their cultural roots and background. The use of prose and poetry throughout the novel provides a clear illustration of this and it illustrates both the differences in the two cultures, as well as, provide the necessary combination to bring out the theme of hybridity. Though the combination of these techniques may, at the beginning, sound different and clash with each other, they complement each other in such a way that helps the readers understand the underlying meaning of the theme of hybridity in the novel.
The theme of hybridity in the novel is also brought out in the fact that Tayo, the novel’s main character, is of mixed heritage. As a character, Tayo embodies both the native American and Wetsren cultures as part of his identity, something that he struggles with throughout his lifetime. As the author tells Tayo’s story, the readers can see how this character has struggled with this combination, as he does not possess a clear identity as to the person he is. He is often portrayed as confused and in need of clarification, which illustrates one of the negative effects of hybridity. Tayo feels out of place at most times and is unsure whether to identify himself as a native American or a member of the Western community. Tayo’s mixed heritage brings out the theme of hybridity in the sense that it illustrates both the negative and positive effects of hybridity. At the outset, readers are exposed to the complications of being of a ‘combined’ culture being to the formation of a hybrid that has not been well defined. However, towards the end of the book, the readers are introduced to a new Tayo who has learnt to appreciate his combined cultural background. This, in turn, illustrates the positive aspect of hybridity owing to the formation of a new and different form.
In addition to being of mixed heritage, Tayo also has hazel eyes, which is a combination of the colors brown and green. Tayo’s hazel eyes indicate that he himself is a hybrid, as he is the offspring of parents who are Native American and Western. Additionally, his hazel eyes are an indication of the ways in which the world is changing as a result of hybridity. In a way, the society, as well as, Tayo is confused about the changes that are brought on by hybridity, but later on, they all learn to accept these changes as a way of positive development.
Healing at the Veterans hospital and Ceremony
Upon a closer examination of the plot and story of the novel ceremony, it is evident that the most of the characters in the book are in search of healing. This is especially applicable to Tayo, the main character in the book, as he wishes to heal from both the physical and emotional wounds attained from his experience in World War II. Tayo looks to find healing from numerous places, but there are only two places where he successfully manages to achieve this including the veterans hospital and the ceremony. These two places are filled with a various individuals from different cultural backgrounds, and they all come together are attain the healing they require as a combined force. In the veterans hospital, individuals from diverse cultural background come together and receive treatment as a group, with minimal discrimination because of their cultural background. The ceremonies are a representation of the different cultural traditions in the novel, and it is the only place where these two cultures meet and appreciate their authenticity as a group. Away from the ceremonies, the two groups have no considerations for each other and they discriminate against one another. However, in the ceremonies, they combine into one forget their differences, and carry out their ceremonies as a group. This, in turn, builds on the theme of hybridity in the novel.