Storyteller Critical Context
by Leslie Marmon Silko

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Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Popular Indian literature is male-centered and rooted in conflict and crisis: Geronimo or Crazy Horse fighting the white settlers, for example. Leslie Silko and others have pioneered a type of literature that is rooted in what Allen calls “the centrality of the feminine power of universal being.” Her concern is a tribal perspective centered in ritual and ceremony and designed to bring people together in harmony with Mother Earth.

In this context, the earth is not inanimate and separate from human beings, not an object to be subdued as in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For the Laguna Indians, the earth is sacred, not only because it has been consecrated by men but, more important, because it is alive, filled with power. The purpose of ceremony is— through song and dance and stories—to connect people to the earth, to generate peace and harmony among human beings, in short to create community. In the process, the private self is brought into a larger relationship to others and the entire mystical universe.

Storyteller is unique because it combines many kinds of literature to achieve this end. Silko’s tribal perspective surfaces in various literary forms, some old and some new, which work together in ceremonial ways (repetition of words and phrases, juxtaposition of images and themes) to create a wholeness that reflects the unity of the universe itself and the interlacing of life on all levels.