Style and Technique

The mode of the story is lyrical. There is only one sentence of direct discourse, and the story’s movement follows Ayah’s consciousness through association of images as she moves forward in her journey to find Chato while drifting back in thought to earlier days.

The story’s imagery relates directly to Navajo traditions and culture. The Yeibechei are spiritual beings, called “holy people.” They are powerful individuals who inhabit sacred mountains, springs, and other holy sites, and who are called on in ceremonies, especially rituals for healing the sick or injured. A Yeibechei song is a sacred song, a part of such a healing ritual, and when Ayah hears the wind singing such a song, it signifies that her story may be understood as a healing ritual. The lullaby at the end of the story echoes the form of many healing songs in its structure of verse and repetition as well as in imagery of earth mother and sky father, rainbow sister and wind brother. Ayah’s elegy concludes with a return to the healing song and a reconciliation on many levels.

Concepts of return and circularity also recur in Navajo thought and iconography. The hogan is a roughly circular dwelling, constructed as a microcosm of the round earth. Pathways and motion are also important. The ideal life is conceived as a journey along the correct, fruitful, beautiful road, often pictured as a rainbow, which will take the individual back to the original—that is, the...

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Historical Context

The Native American Literary Renaissance
A new generation of Native American writers emerged in the 1970s in what has been...

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"Lullaby" first appeared in Storyteller (1981), a book in which Silko interweaves autobiographical reminiscences, short stories,...

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Literary Style

"Lullaby" is told from the thirdperson-restricted point of view. That means that, although the narrator is not a...

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Literary Qualities

"Lullaby" is told from the third-person restricted point of view. That means that, although the narrator is not a character in the story, the...

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Social Sensitivity

Silko was part of a new generation of Native American writers who emerged in the 1970s in what has been termed the Native American...

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Compare and Contrast

1970s: Silko's novel Ceremony (1977) was the first novel by a Native American woman ever to be published.


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Topics for Discussion

1. The 1970s, during which Silko's short story "Lullaby" was first written, were a significant time in the history of Native American...

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. There are hundreds of Native American tribes on the North American continent (such as Navajo, Cherokee, Chippewa, Pueblo, etc.), yet one...

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Topics for Further Study

Many of Silko's stories address the issue of the role of tradition in contemporary Native American culture, and particularly the role of the...

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Related Titles / Adaptations

Ceremony (1977), also by Silko, interweaves free verse poetry with narrative prose. The novel tells the story of Tayo, a World War II...

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Media Adaptations

Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories & Poems is a videorecording made in 1978 in which Leslie Silko shares stories...

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What Do I Read Next?

Ceremony (1977) by Leslie Marmon Silko. Interweaves free verse poetry with narrative prose. Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed...

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For Further Reference

Barnes, Kim. Interview with Leslie Marmon Silko. The Journal of Ethnic Studies (winter 1986): 83-105. Topics Silko discusses include,...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Krumholz, Linda, ‘‘Native Designs: Silko's Storyteller and the Reader's Initiation,’’ in Leslie Marmon Silko:...

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Aithal, S. K. “American Ethnic Fiction in the Universal Context.” American Studies International 21 (October, 1983): 61-66.

Antell, J. A. “Momaday, Welch, and Silko: Expressing the Feminine Principle Through Male Alienation.” American Indian Quarterly 12 (Summer, 1988): 213-220.

Chavkin, Allan, ed. Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony”: A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Danielson, Linda. “The Storytellers in Storyteller.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 5, no. 1 (1989): 21-31.

Dunsmore, Roger....

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