(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

As the novel’s various plot lines suggest, Silko is not concerned with asserting that her characters represent a spectrum of powers; the fact that they do so is presented as a given. The interest of the various plots is the manner in which these powers may be commissioned, and since the nature of power as it has been traditionally applied is exploitative and oppressive, much of the action reproduces the history, consequences, and ideologies of such applications. Yet Silko is not content merely to reproduce a critique. In keeping with the capacity for the almanac that Lecha guards to preserve and instruct, this novel accepts the imaginative challenge of attempting to reconfigure the nature of power so that it becomes the basis of an ethic of collective action undertaken in the name of survival.

The almost melodramatic undercurrent of each particular story is ultimately subsumed by resolutions that transform a plot line’s anxieties and compulsions and reveal them to be the basis for visionary projections, both destructive and productive. Such resolutions not only affect the narratives’ eventual outcome but also may be seen in Silko’s mode of characterization. Presented as though each is an individual, the characters in Almanac of the Dead are rather an aggregation of various cultural forces rather than self-consciously autonomous agents. The most important instance of this conception of character is Lecha, not only because she is the keeper of the Lakota tribal almanac but also because she actively makes, and implements, a choice between her native world and the Anglo one. By doing so, Lecha becomes the embodiment of the novel’s cultural core, an affirmation of the necessary unity of earth and...

(The entire section is 705 words.)