Tayo's time in the hospital is in some ways a lost period of his life. He is a shell of his former self, a man who sees himself as "white smoke." Yet even as his psyche wears away, his senses and perceptions do not lose all of their sharpness, as his startlingly and at times surreal images of the hospital indicate: "He had seen outlines of gray steel tables, outlines of the food they pushed into his mouth, which was only an outline too, like all the outlines he saw" (13). This description indicates that Tayo cannot dull his sensitivity to the world, since even at his most depleted he can still see and remember "outlines" at the very least. His entire register of experience, however, has become something deficient as a result of his traumas, an empty and incomplete "outline" of an actual life.
When Silko describes the shanty community in the arroyo, she does so with vivid imagery that captures the extent of the violence and randomness of life in this area. There are "sudden cloudbursts" that "could fill the arroyos with flood water and wash the shelters away"; there is a population of children "with light-colored hair or light eyes, bushy hair and thick lips—the ones the women were ashamed to send home to their mothers" (100). Life in this destitute community is marked by disruptions from law enforcement and nature alike, and produces wild-seeming children with "bushy hair." Yet life here also creates a bizarre sense of custom; as remarkably unpleasant as the floods and the "shameful" births are, they are regular features that repeat themselves over time.
While accompanying Harley and Leroy on one of their sprees, Tayo experiences the impulse to connect with nature: "He wanted to catch a grasshopper and hold it close to his face, to look at its big flat eyes and shiny thin legs wth stripes of black and brown like beadwork, making intricate designs" (145). Harley and Leroy are oblivious to the manifestation of nature's beauty and delicacy that Tayo sees in the grasshopper. Indeed, Tayo's ability to observe his surroundings so sensitively and appreciatively indicates that he has the potential for spiritual and emotional renewal, even if such potential separates him from his contemporaries.
The Fate of Harley and Leroy
At the end of the novel, Silko describes the sad fate of two of Tayo's companions: "They found Harley and Leroy together in the big boulders below the road of Paginate Hill. The old GMC pickup was crushed around them like the shiny metal coffin the Veterans Office bought for each of them" (240). The location and circumstances of the two men are detailed precisely, almost as though a crime scene (the scene of another of Emo's crimes, most likely) is being revealed. Nonetheless, the narrative quickly moves past these striking images and towards its conclusion. The Laguna community seems eager to have the two men buried, the memory of their sad fate put out of sight, and the fast clip of the narrative reflects the public's unwillingness to spend time lingering over Harley and Leroy.
Ceremony Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Ceremony is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.