Identify the dominant theme in "Yellow Woman."

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The presence of liminality in the modern setting is one of the dominant themes of the work.  The construction of identity as a "state of being between two worlds or two states of existence" is present in the work.  The woman is liminal in several ways.  In this exploration, identity is seen as shifting and far from absolute.

She is a mother and a wife, bound by the contours of traditional life. Yet, she is a woman who has desires and seeks to act upon them. She is formally educated, but embraces a mythology that is something of the past world.  She believes that the stories of the past "could not happen now," while actively seeing herself as living such a narrative in her affair with Silva.  She is of the present, with a mind that constantly shifts between configuration of time.  She is American, and undeniably Native American.  She returns home, but still has a part of her wonder about life outside the home.  Such a condition is representative of a liminal state.  It is one in which worlds are straddled and identity is far from constant.  In being able to articulate this condition, the identity of liminality becomes a dominant theme in the narrative.

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Identity is the dominant theme of the story—in particular, the idea that "identity" itself is a fluid concept, and that the experiences and stories that make us "who we are" can have more than one outcome. For the "yellow woman," her experience with Silvio is one such experience. The idea that Silvio could be a ka'tsina spirit, and that his time with protagonist could be a enactment of an ancient story, suggests that she has found herself in a kind of separate reality, one in which she is not exactly disconnected from her identity as wife and mother, but which somehow exists concurrently, or in a parallel fashion. Her life in the pueblo and her life as Silvio's Yellow Woman are interconnected, which makes her powerful and able to transcend her everyday reality.

Read the study guide:
Yellow Woman

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question