Before You Read. “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” by Leslie Marmon Silko. Born About Silko. “I was fortunate to be reared by my great-grandmother and. Silko, Leslie Marmon. Genre. Short Story. Overview. Published in , “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” depicts the story of an old man who is found dead in a. Leon: Grandson of Teofilo, brother-in-law of Ken, round character; Ken: Grandson of Teofilo, brother-in-law of Leon, flat character; Father Paul.
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The story brought her wide recognition as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The story is based on an incident Silko had heard about in her hometown of Laguna, New Mexico: The local Catholic priest resented the fact that he had not been called in to officiate at the service. Silko is one of the major authors to emerge from the Native American literary renaissance of the s.
Born in in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she grew up on the nearby Rsin Pueblo Reservation, tge she was raised within a family of mixed Indian, Mexican, and white descent.
Life on the reservation was a silkp balancing act of Pueblo and Christian wilko. The stories lived on in her memory, and in later years she drew heavily upon her heritage in her cloud. She attended law school for a short time, but, disillusioned with the legal system, she left school after three semesters, having decided to seek justice for her people through the power of her imagination and stories.
She has also written film clous and given numerous interviews which provide insights into her works. In she was awarded a John D. As the story opens, Leon and his brother-in-law, Ken, find an old man, Teofilo, dead under clouuds cottonwood tree. They ritually paint his face and take his body, wrapped in a red blanket, to their home for a traditional Pueblo funeral ceremony.
The Pueblo people paint the faces of the dead so that they will be recognized in the next world. They also scatter corn and sprinkle water to provide food and water for the spirit on its journey to the other world. To the Pueblo, death is not the end of existence, but part of a cycle in which the spirit of the deceased returns to its source and then helps the community of the living by returning with rain clouds for senf nourishment of the earth.
On their way home, Leon and Ken encounter Father Paul, a young Catholic priest who expresses his sorrow that the old man had died alone. At first, Father Paul refuses to use the holy water as part of an Indian burial ceremony. After reconsideration the priest, still confused about his role the ceremony, changes his mind and sprinkles the grave with the holy water:. The priest approached the grave slowly.
But there he was, facing into a cold dry wind and squinting at the last sunlight, ready to bury a red wool blanket while the faces of his parishioners were in shadow with the last warmth of the sun on their backs. His fingers were stiff, and it took him a long time to twist the lid off the holy water. Drops of water fell on the red blanket and soaked into dark icy spots. Ken is the brother-in-law of Leon and a minor character in the story.
Like old Teofilo and Leon, he also believes in following Indian ways, and he helps his brother-in-law any marmo he can.
He manages to integrate American Indian ways and Christian ways; he is a Christian who still respects his roots and cultural heritage. He is a man of few words and has a calm, strong sense of dignity. The fact that he is able to persuade the priest to sprinkle holy water at the grave site with a few well-chosen words—without argument—reveal his character.
Although her part is minor, it is her suggestion that triggers the culture clash in the story. Father Paul is a young Catholic priest struggling to lead a parish on an Indian reservation.
He has affection and sulko for his parishioners, as seen in his concern for old Teofilo. He also understands that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law. Although he is troubled by the persistence of Indian customs in his parish, he learns to adapt to them. Teofilo is perhaps the most important character in the story, since the plot concerns the conflict that arises after his death between American Indian ways and Christian ways.
A Native American living on a reservation in New Mexico, he was fiercely independent. He adhered to both the new and old ways: He made new moccasins for the ceremonial dances in the summer and was not keen on going to church. Teofilo was old and well respected, as evidenced by the affection shown him by Leon and his family.
Throughout the story, Silko emphasizes that the strength of Pueblo traditions lies in their ability to incorporate alien elements into their own way of life. Father Paul refuses at first, but later decides to sprinkle holy water on the clluds, honoring the Native American belief that the spirit must have plenty of water in its journey to the other world.
The story reveals how clashes over differences in customs and tradition can be avoided through a combination of customs. Death is not an end, but part of a cycle wherein the spirit departs to return in time with rainstorms. As he finishes painting the dead face of Teofilo, Leon is not sad; instead he smiles and offers the conventional Pueblo prayer asking the dead man to send leslke clouds. Yet after the old man dies, Leon does not inform the priest, though the rest of his parishioners have been informed.
At one point excited and full of plans for his Native American parish, Father Paul finds the reality of working in an Indian parish very different from what he had expected.
I could have brought the Last Rites anyway. Although it is not strictly a Christian burial, the dead man receives the blessings of both sfnd and Christian cultures. The story is told through an objective, mzrmon narrative, and unfolds in a rigidly objective tone.
The Man to Send Rain Clouds
The landscape of the story with its arroyos and mesas is an integral part of the story. Silko captures the landscape very effectively in her narrative. Leon waited under the tree while Ken drove the truck through the deep sand to the edge of the arroyo.
But high and northwest the blue mountains were still in snow. It was getting colder, and the wind pushed gray dust down the narrow pueblo road. The sun was approaching the long mesa where it disappeared during the winter. The narrator makes several references to the Indian burial ceremony and the history of the Pueblo people.
To the Pueblo, death is not the end of existence, but part of a cycle in which the human spirit returns to its source and then helps the community by returning with rain clouds. The Pueblo paint the face of the deceased so that he will be recognized in the next world. Inwhen the Pueblo swore allegiance to the king of Spain, Catholic missionaries arrived to convert Native Americans to Catholicism. Although Christianity was forced on them, the Indians continued to observe their traditional religious practices.
In this story, Silko uses humor as a doubleedged tool. The encounter between the young priest, who is denied the opportunity to perform Catholic rites, and Leon, who insists that such rites are not necessary, is humorous. The exchange also provokes an awareness of intercultural conflict.
One illustration of this is the following passage: Irony is a literary device used to convey meaning to a phrase quite different than—in fact, often. Irony can be verbal or situational. Silko demonstrates a skillful use of irony in the story, notably in her depiction of the young priest, an authority figure who wants the Indians to follow Catholic ways but, in the end, himself uses holy water as part of a traditional Indian ceremony, participating in a non-Christian ceremony.
Silko employs an interesting mixture of narration and dialogue. The dialogues between Leon and Father Paul, and between Leon and Louise, present the characters to the readers directly. In the late s there was an interest in indigenous cultures in America.
Many Indians moved off the reservations and into mainstream American culture, becoming more visible as a result. It was an opening up worldwide. The story reflects sikko on the Laguna Indian Reservation in the s. For more than 12, years the Pueblo had lived in the region and traditional religious beliefs permeated every aspect of life. Even when Christianity was introduced, it was incorporated into older Pueblo rites.
The rituals in the story underscore the Pueblo concept of death. But after the white people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies. I have made changes in the rituals. The people mistrust this greatly, but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong. Some critics believe that this story may become one of the classics of American literature. Her work widely anthologized, Leslie Marmon Silko is considered the preeminent Native American woman novelist, a legend in her achievements in the field of Native American literature.
Her writings are included in the syllabus of various American thhe courses in high schools and colleges.
The Man to Send Rain Clouds |
Raised on the Indian reservation in Laguna, New Mexico, she incorporates into her writing the stories, myths, and legends she heard as she grew up. Of Pueblo, Mexican, and white descent, she was both an insider and outsider in Laguna, and this makes her an interesting chronicler of stories about modern-day.
In an interview she has stated: You can look at the old stories that were told among the tribal people here in a north country and see that within them is the same kind of valuable lessons about mafmon behavior and thee we need them still.
All Rzin knew was my growing up at Laguna, recalling some other stories that I had been told as a child. The story is based on an incident she had heard of in Laguna, that an old man had been found dead in a sheep camp and had been given a traditional Lesloe burial, and that the local Catholic priest had resented the fact that he had not been called in.
Silko claims that Pueblo narratives are lean and spare because so much of what constitute the stories is shared knowledge. But an understanding of the Pueblo burial customs gives an added dimension to an understanding of the story.
In Pueblo culture, it is believed that neglect of tribal rituals can result in death and sickness, because the ghost returns without blessings, having been unable to enter the other world. To avoid this unhappy prospect, a prayer feather is attached to the hair of the deceased, and his face is painted so that the he will be recognized in the next world.
These tasks are ordinarily performed by the village Shaman religious priestwhile corn meal is offered to the wind and water is sprinkled on the grave so that the spirit has nourishment on its journey to the other world. Through this lesile, Silko emphasizes that the continuing strength of Pueblo traditions lies in the ability of the people to incorporate alien elements for their own purposes.
Leon lrslie to follow the Pueblo rites and persuades the Father Paul to participate in them, as well. This is exemplified in the part of the story in which Father Paul is depicted as bewildered by the incorporation of Catholic ritual in an Indian ceremony. Although the reservation Indians are Catholic, they retain pagan rituals and customs. Later he ends up being a good friend of the native priest and becomes part of the Christian community in India.
Further parallels can be drawn between the history of Christianity in other indigenous cultures, in other literary and historical works. The spirit returns to its source and returns bringing rain clouds to the community, staving off drought.
Silko has said that, for the Indian people, time is round, and not a linear string.