The Man to Send Rain Clouds

by Leslie Marmon Silko

Start Free Trial

In "The Man to Send Rain Clouds," what is the relationship of the two religions within the community?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Man to Send Rainclouds" opens with family elder Teofilo found deceased beneath a cottonwood tree by his two grandsons, Leon and Ken. The grandsons immediately give their grandfather traditional Laguna Pueblo death rituals such as attaching a feather to his hair and painting his face with different colored paints. However, when the catholic priest Father Paul who lives among them wants to perform the Catholic last rites on Teofila, Ken and Leon do not seek his services and rather move forward with the death ceremony their culture already has.

But when Leon asks Father Paul for holy water to be sprinkled on Teofila's grave—to prevent thirst—the two religions intersect. Father Paul does not want to sprinkle Teofila's body with holy water because it is not the proper order or use of the catholic last rites, but he ends up sprinkling the body nonetheless. This action reveals the serious attempts of the Christian church to infiltrate the native religions of New Mexico by inserting themselves in any way to be useful to the native Laguna ceremonies. While the water represents "rain clouds" to the family of Teofila and provides them peace that their grandfather will not be thirsty, it represents the grace of a Christian god to Father Paul. While the two religions do not interpret the spiritual connotation of water the same way, nor keep the same burial ceremonies, this final scene where native and Christian religions overlap reveals the Laguna people's ability to accept the Catholic priest, and the determination of the Catholic priest to aid the indigenous people whom he views as needing salvation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The traditional faith of the Pueblo people and the Catholicism of the Spanish people who have moved into the area are very different religions. However, the people who follow each faith respect the other people and their traditions even though they don't understand them. There is mutual kindness and space to practice each of their own traditions, even if they find the other traditions strange or unnecessary.

One of the major places where the religions in the story disagree is over who sends the rainclouds. In the Catholic faith, God is the one God, who controls everything. Only he can create and send rainclouds. For the Pueblo people, however, their dead loved ones have a hand in sending the rain to their people.

When Teofilo dies, his grandsons don't want Father Paul and his Catholic traditions involved in his burial. They want him to have a traditional Pueblo ceremony. When Louise suggests letting Father Paul sprinkle holy water on Teofilo, however, they agree to it—but not the Last Rites or Mass. They're sure that with the holy water, Teofilo won't be thirsty.

Once the holy water has been sprinkled and the burial is done, Leon is happy. He believes that Teofilo will send them rainclouds now. This shows how the two religions can work together and continue having a peaceful community.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Though the two religions in the book present a stark contrast of ideals and culture, they maintain a cold reverence for one another. The indigenous Pueblo group shows respect towards the Catholic newcomers, but refuses to convert to the religion of the settlers. The Catholics, as well, show care for the Pueblo people, but attempt to evangelize to and convert them throughout the story.

The funeral scene is a prime example of this contrast as the two religions both attempt to give their blessing over Teofilo's body. The Pueblo people wrap him in cloth painted with a face on it so that he will be recognized in the afterlife, while the Catholic priest anoints him with holy water. The two clans are respectful of each others' practices, and the priest is even pleased when the Pueblo people accept the holy water as a blessing, in spite of their belief that it will bring rain to the people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This novel presents an interesting dichotomy of religion. The traditional Pueblo people are very suspicious and wary of the Catholic faith that has invaded their land. However, each group of people respects the other—in spite of their religious and cultural differences. Particularly in light of the evangelistic attempts at conversion, the Pueblo people are particularly respectful even though their faith is being challenged in front of them.

This is particularly poignant and clear during the funeral for Teofilo. The ceremony is a traditional Pueblo one, with provisions for the afterlife and an omission of Catholic burial rites. However, at the eleventh hour, the priest is asked to sprinkle the body with holy water. He does so reluctantly, and the villagers are happy with this result, and insist that it will bring rain to their village—a decidedly not-Catholic interpretation of the event. However, both sides are pleased with the acceptance from the other.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The man to Send Rainclouds by Leslie Marmon Silko there is an complex and uneasy relationship between the traditional Pueblo Indian religion and the Catholic religion. On the one hand, the individuals in the opposing religions--for they are opposing in theology as well as in practice--respect each other. The Pueblo Indians even go so far as to see benefit in the rituals of the Catholic religion, though the Catholic priest, Father Paul, has more reservations. He is unhappy when Teofilo, who died under a cottonwood tree, is given a traditional Pueblo funeral from which Catholic Last Rites have been omitted. At the funeral, in a vivid demonstration of the tolerance with which the Pueblo Indians view the Catholic religion, while Teofilo is wrapped in his Pueblo red blanket with face painted so he will be recognized on the other side of living, it is eagerly suggested that Father Paul, who is among the attendees, should sprinkle Teofilo with Holy Water. Demonstrating the uneasy relationship between the two religions, Father Paul first declines and then suspiciously agrees and very tentatively moves forward to do the sprinkling. Further depicting that Pueblo Indians are more tolerant than the representative of Catholicism, Leon exclaims that now that Teofilo is sprinkled with Holy Water, they'll surely have huge summer rain clouds, which alludes to Pueblo beliefs that the dead return and bring rain clouds for the Pueblo crops. This is assuredly an idea in direct opposition to Catholicism and yet Leon's happy idea sprang from the addition of Catholic Holy Water to Teofilo's traditional Pueblo funeral.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team