Storyteller Characters
by Leslie Marmon Silko

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(Short Stories for Students)

"She," also known as The Young Woman and Girl, is the main character of the story. Her character is best described as self-sufficient. She has learned to be alone from a childhood of other children running away due to her being a member of an unusual household (other children are frightened of the old man and the grandmother with whom she lives). Her self-sufficiency is demonstrated by her habit of laughing at "Gussuck" pretensions to mastery or control of nature. When she sees the disassembled parts of prefabricated houses with insulation spilling out, or when she sees machines stalled in the cold, she laughs as if she knows all along that the Alaskan freeze is the true master of all things. This knowing laughter is suggestive of superior knowledge and selfconfidence. Her role in the story is to emerge as the next community storyteller, as the old man who is the current storyteller moves, at the same time, to meet his death. This process involves an act of terrible revenge. This revenge is motivated not only by the murder of her parents but also by anger at her culture's usurpation by outside cultural forces.

Other Characters

(Short Stories for Students)

The attorney is a public defender sent to look after the young woman's interests. He is perplexed that she insists on taking responsibility for the storekeeper's death. He is a sympathetic character but, ultimately, somewhat patronizing. Although the young woman does not help him understand the meaning and significance of her desire to take responsibility for her act, for his part he is quick to decide that she must be confused or of unsound mind.

See She and Young Woman

The grandmother seems eminently tired out by life. Her having felt its blows harshly is reflected in the gnarled and painful state of her body. Glimpses into the past suggest that she does her duty to the young woman, her orphaned grandchild, dryly and without relish. She passes on stories and nominally looks after the girl, but she does not, on the other hand, protect her from the old man's misdeeds. The unhappy nature of this household reflects the unraveling of the properly functioning traditional Yupik culture.

The jailer angers the young woman as he refuses to speak Yupik (although he understands it). To the girl this means he is a cultural traitor, one who has capitulated to cultural conquest. He exhibits no concern for or interest in the young woman (in...

(The entire section is 627 words.)