Ceremony is the story about Tayo, A Native American World War II Veteran, and his struggle to find himself. He struggles to adapt to a world where his people have to fight between the “whites” say is the true path, and what his culture says the right path. Ceremony displays Tayo’s struggle by comparing his struggle to find his own path, to the other Native American’s and their fight to their own path.
The book starts as Tayo is in bed going over the war in his mind… He remembers how the Japanese looked like him, same skin color and how Rocky told him, “It’s is what we’re here to do” and how he doesn’t understand why he’s there killing people that look like him, and possibly feel the same way he does. But he is there because the “white” recruiter told him that he could fly planes, and make America proud.
He remembers the clash of his path between what the white man wanted and his path. Tayo became so entranced with the idea that the Japanese were like him that he started to put people he knew at home’s faces on the Japanese soldiers. Tayo could not see the reason for killing the Japanese, and then when the soldier killed Rocky, it made his path split like a silk string to a spider’s web, it went out in all directions. His mind snapped at that exact moment and went into “shell-shock”.
Tayo started very early trying to find his path, but yet his path paralleled Rocky’s until the time when Rocky died. Tayo’s path paralleled but was always a step behind, because he was trying to retain his heritage and still keep with the new ways. Tayo walked a thin line trying to keep his path and Rocky close together because he loved Rocky, and yet could not understand Rocky wanting so badly to leave the old ways.
Rocky believed in the white man’s science, when all Tayo wanted to believe in was Native American science, for example the cattle rising… Josiah was bringing cattle home that he’d bought and was reading books on it, and saw the “white man’s” definition of “perfect cattle” and laughed, and the rest of the family read it, and they all laughed except for Rocky who said, “Those books are written by scientists.
They know everything there is to know about beef cattle. That’s the trouble with the way people around here have always done things-they never knew what they were doing.” To Rocky the Native American’s were an old sub-human race, while Tayo thought of his people as the true seekers of knowledge, and the “white men” as only dilettantes in the game.
The Deer is a startling example of Tayo’s and Rocky’s different ideas about their people… Tayo was keeping with tradition while Rocky wanted to spit on tradition and move on, this being where the path’s in the book began to split, then they realign themselves with the start of the war and then branch at the time of Rocky’s death. As I said this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made the branch in the path turn into a tangled skein that no one except Tayo could straighten out.
Tayo, had to struggle to straighten his path out, to make it as straight as the road, instead of the tangled skein it was now, and he tried many methods, he tried to talk to army psychologists, to Medicine Men, and finally, it was the love of a woman, which made him begin to start down his path, the path of the non-destroyers, the path of the Bear, the healers of the land. He watched “white men” destroy his land, his people, and Mother Earth all in the name of progress. Tayo saw how his people were destroyed by alcohol, business, and above all their mentality of the “White man can do no wrong.” His path was sure now, it was all the white man’s fault he lost Rocky and their entire fault for the destruction of his people.
The ceremony was basically a book about how to get even with the white man, not about enlightening our perception of their people. The author refers to the white man as the “Destroyers”, or the ones who destroy everything, Tayo’s path merged with one purpose and that was to walk in pity because he couldn’t fight back, not as the healer he wanted to be. The author didn’t make Tayo’s path a Bear path; no she made his path mirror one of a shark.
One who says the enemy is others and gets bloodlust to end the problem. The solution isn’t that simple and that the author stated such a thing is a step down as her point as an author. Robert A. Heinlein showed the plot of minorities without having the main character call everyone else destroyers, and punishers of Mother Earth. The main character found his path; it just wasn’t one with harmony in mind.