The Man to Send Rain Clouds

by Leslie Marmon Silko

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What value do the characters' actions hold in "The Man to Send Rain Clouds"?

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In "The Man to Send Rain Clouds," the value of every action that the characters perform after they find Teofilo dead is as a part of the rituals for the old man's funeral and burial. The rituals give significance to Teofilo's death and help his relatives and neighbors find purpose in it.

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In the short story "The Man to Send Rain Clouds" by Leslie Marmon Silko, two Pueblo brothers-in-law, Leon and Ken, find an old man named Teofilo dead under a cottonwood tree in a sandy arroyo where he has been tending sheep.

The two have been looking for Teofilo and are not surprised to find him dead. Every action that they undertake after they find the old man, whom Leon called Grandfather, is a step in preparing him for his funeral and burial. The value in these actions is in the Native American traditions that they represent.

First of all, Leon ties a feather in Teofilo's hair. He then applies white, blue, yellow, and green paint to the man's face. Ken throws "pinches of corn meal and pollen into the wind." Leon asks the spirit of Teofilo to send them rainclouds. They then wrap the old man's body in a red blanket and bring him home. They perform each of these actions, as well as all subsequent actions, as if they are all part of an elaborate ritual honoring Teofilo.

When they get back to the house, two women, Louise and Teresa, dress the old man in new clothes. Ken goes off to find gravediggers to prepare the grave. Relatives and neighbors come to embrace the family and leave food for the gravediggers. A Native American funeral is conducted with candles and medicine bags. Afterward they take the body to be buried. As a last touch, Louise—who calls Teofilo "Grandpa"—asks Leon to request that the priest sprinkle some holy water over the dead man, "so he won't be thirsty." At first the priest refuses because Teofilo has not received a Catholic funeral, but then he assents. After the priest liberally sprinkles the body and the grave with holy water, Leon is confident that the old man's spirit will send the rainclouds that the area needs.

We see, then, that the value of every action that the characters perform after they find Teofilo is as a part of the funeral and burial rituals.

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