Describe the woman in "Yellow Woman" by Leslie Marmon Silko.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Leslie Silko’s story, “Yellow Woman,” portrays a woman caught in a complex world of reality and mysticism. On first reading, the story appears simple: It is a woman's brief romantic adventure with a handsome, mysterious stranger.  The story is told in first person point of view by the protagonist, a nameless Indian woman.  Indian folklore is at the heart of the story. Many ancient cultures owe their spirituality and history to oral traditions.  The mixing of the two worlds, the old and the new,  requires a second look. 

From this story, two characters important in Indian tales converge: the ka’tsina, a water spirit;  and the Yellow Woman,  a mythical Indian woman.  Silko’s story begins with the young woman going out for a walk near a river and being seduced by  an Indian man named Silva.  Silva calls himself a ka’tsina and the woman he names Yellow Woman. 

A young, beautiful Indian woman--unsophisticated, sensual, adventurous--the narrator is not the real Yellow Woman.  Although the story appears to have an old west quality, the woman mentions Jell-o and trucks. She is caught up in the escapade of Silva’s making.  As the story progresses, the woman’s reality evolves from someone who listened to her grandfather’s stories about the Yellow Woman  to consciously entering the reality of Yellow Woman.

I will see someone, eventually I will see someone, and then I will be certain that he is only a man—some man from nearby—and I will be sure that I am not Yellow Woman.

The woman is not only sexually seduced but psychologically as well.   Yet, in her more cogent times, she wonders about her husband and her baby. Then, she begins to question if the man is a ka’tsina and if she is actually Yellow Woman

‘Do you always use the same tricks?’

‘What tricks?’ his face was calm. 

'The story about being a ka’tsina from the mountains and me being Yellow Woman.  I don’t believe it.'

He shook his had and said softly, ‘But someday they will talk about us…'

Silva convinces her to go with him to his cabin up in the mountains.  Awakening the next morning, she discovers that he is gone.  Yellow Woman goes for a walk and when she returns, Silva is waiting on her with a stolen beef carcass that he has slaughtered and butchered to sell.  Again,  Silva persuades her to accompany him to Mexico to sell the meat. 

On the way, a man, who owned the stolen cow, catches up to them.  He and Silva begin arguing.  Silva tells Yellow Woman to go back to the cabin.  While riding off, the woman hears four shots.  This jerks her back into reality.  Silva is not only a thief,  but a murderer.  She lets the horse go and walks back to her family telling them that she had been kidnapped. 

The seduction of the woman has an ethereal quality that makes the reader question himself about the reality of the man and woman and their connection.  However, in the final analysis, this story  is a desire to explore a destiny that transcends the limits of the woman's life.  Yes, it is  only an exciting moment in the her life.

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Yellow Woman

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