Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The old woman’s occupation as storyteller, as well as her conscious efforts to remember stories, create stories, and be remembered in her own story, reveals a recurrent theme in Silko’s works: that a common heritage of stories helps people survive. The stories build, continue, and eventually transform the tradition of the community. People survive in cohesive groups because they know and value the same stories. They remember their loved ones and their heroes and know themselves through stories. The old woman, who had guarded and transmitted the Laguna heritage all her life, “could die peacefully” if she knew that someone would tell the story of her final days.

The creative, transformative power of stories is most boldly illustrated when the old woman reflects, “I just might as well think of a story/ while I’m waiting to die” and begins a new story. At this point, the storyteller acts like “Thought Woman” (also known as “Grandmother Spider”), a Laguna creator figure who creates by thinking; as the storyteller narrates, she simultaneously tells of and creates the child A’moo’ooh (this Laguna term of endearment means granddaughter).

In the new story, A’moo’ooh looks back with pity on the storyteller slumped in the shade, knowing how the old woman hates the enemy and contemplating what the storyteller is thinking. At this point, the narration of the story is assumed by the child. Reconsidering the poem in the light of the narration of A’moo’ooh, readers might now suspect that A’moo’ooh (perhaps grown older) has actually been the narrator throughout. This realization...

(The entire section is 664 words.)