Themes and Meanings
Vital to Almanac of the Dead is the acceptance of what Native American writer Paula Gunn Allen terms “ceremonial time,” a sense of reality that transcends linear time and embraces the fluidity of past, present, and future. Silko’s structural technique, which gracefully connects people and events while shifting from perspective to perspective, establishes the imperative of reading in this mindframe. The lack of an easily definable plot and protagonist is disconcerting until the accretion is recognized; then characters and occurrences become more fully understood as the multiple stories begin to unite, forming a whole instead of related parts. The reader, like Sterling, is guided toward understanding through accretion and a vision of synthesis. Only when viewed as interlocking and interrelated do the fragmented, jumbled accounts reveal a comprehensible message.
Silko insists that her narratives of the characters’ lives become united, and she similarly merges specific times and places into a boundless reality. Time becomes fluid as events of the past illuminate the future, present illuminates past, and so on. Her literal movement from place to place, character to character, and time to time elucidates the novel’s theme of reality as movement; she demands that characters not be conceptualized as isolated individuals and demands that time not be deciphered linearly. Only witchery enforces the notion of distinct beings in a particular place...
(The entire section is 421 words.)