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What is the central idea of "Lullaby"?

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The central idea of the short story "Lullaby" by Leslie Marmon Silko is that the old woman, Ayah, despite the numerous tragedies she has experienced during her long life, is a part of the land in which she has been born and raised. In spite of her sorrows, she has dignity, peace, and wisdom. This idea is encapsulated in the song at the end that the main character has learned from her forebears.

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The short story "Lullaby" by Leslie Marmon Silko is told from the viewpoint of an old Native American woman named Ayah. She has walked up a hillside during a snowfall to wait for her husband, who is getting drunk in a bar. While she waits, she reflects upon her life. For many years, her husband Chato worked for a white rancher. During this time, they lived in a boxcar shack on the rancher's land. He was a cruel, heartless employer. When Chato became injured, the rancher refused to pay him, and when he got too old to work, the rancher threw them out of their home at a day's notice.

The greatest tragedies of the old woman's life concern her children. Ayah had a son named Jimmy who was killed in a war. She had another son named Danny and a daughter named Ella, and government officials duplicitously took them away from her. After this, she spent years in mourning, refusing to sleep with her husband. Now they are old and live in the decrepit wigwam that used to belong to her parents.

Ayah walks down from the hill to search for her husband. He is not in the bar, but she finds him walking along the road absentmindedly. He seems to be suffering from dementia. She treats him tenderly. They walk off the road together to a cluster of boulders. She wraps the blanket around them both, and Chato falls asleep. She recalls a lullaby that was passed from her grandmother to her mother to her.

The central idea of the short story can be found in the words of the lullaby. Despite everything that has happened to her, Ayah is a part of the earth, the sky, the rainbows, and the winds. She is in unity with the generations of her ancestors who have lived in this land, and she always will be. Ayah retains great serenity and dignity despite the many tragedies she has experienced.

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