Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465

Illustration of PDF document

Download Gardens in the Dunes Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Indigo and Sister Salt are members of the Sand Lizard Tribe. They're attacked during a ritual and many people are killed. Their mother escapes, and they're raised by their grandmother. Leslie Marmon Silko writes:

Sister Salt remembers everything. The morning the soldiers and the Indian police came to arrest the Messiah, Grandma Fleet told Sister Salt to run. Run! Run get your little sister! You girls go back to the old gardens! Sister Salt was big and strong. She carried Indigo piggyback whenever her little sister got tired. Indigo doesn't remember much about that morning except for the shouts and screams.

Indigo spends the summer with the Palmers, a white couple who travel extensively. She's caught between the world she lives in and the world she comes from. She's unable to reconcile the different sides of herself for a great deal of the novel. Indigo feels a great deal of grief over her inability to return to Needles to be with her family. Marmon Silko writes:

Clackety-clack! Clackety-clack! You left home, now you'll never get back. Clackety-clack! Never get back, never get back, get back, get back, the rails sang; even when Indigo put her fingers in her ears she heard the song. She cried until the tears made a wet spot on the pillow. Hattie sat on the edge of her berth and patted Indigo's back.

Indigo sobbed with disappointment in herself; Grandma Fleet would have been so disappointed too, because she always managed to escape the first time she tried. Now that she missed her chance at Needles, the train was speeding her farther and farther away from Mama and Sister Salt. Hattie was a nice person, and her husband was OK; Hattie meant well, but she did not understand.

As they travel, she sees the ugly side of white society and collects seeds she hopes to use in her garden when she returns home. Even when Edward Palmer is killed and Hattie Palmer is brutally injured, Indigo never gives up hope. She cares for Hattie and they share a love of gardens. Marmon Silko writes:

Whenever Hattie felt about to lose heart over the travel preparations, she turned her thoughts to the gardens they would see. She talked to Indigo about the English gardens and the Italian gardens and all the new flowers and shrubs they would see. Indigo was not convinced; she took Hattie by the hand and walked with her to the red garden to point out that they already had plenty of flowers and shrubs.

As Indigo travels and eventually returns to Salt in Needles, she learns to incorporate her lived experience with that of her past and heritage. Though they never manage to find their mother, they do tend their own gardens and live together, raising Salt's son.