Ceremony: Analysis of Auntie

Perhaps the most important factor in a person’s development is his or her family. Family members can shape some one’s thoughts and can make it difficult for a person to fit in one’s environment. In the novel Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, Tayo’s auntie is an antagonistic woman who is concerned about other people’s judgment toward her and her family. Her unfriendly behavior sprang from her low self-esteem and the anger she reproached because her sister’s unruly actions. The most evident psychological problem Tayo’s Auntie is dealing with is her lack of self-esteem.

This was brought upon by her siblings’ disappointing choices. Her siblings’ brought shame to the family and the main cause for such disgrace was Auntie’s sister’s humiliating behavior. Tayo’s mom’s promiscuity dishonored the family, but it took a greater toll on Auntie; “So Auntie has tried desperately to reconcile the family with the people; the old instinct had always been to gather the feelings and opinions that were scattered through the village, to gather them like willow twigs and tie them into a single prayer bundle that would bring peace to all of them” (69).

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Auntie made it her duty to mend and protect the family name. She became extremely aware about what the village people had to say about her family. Auntie was worried about her family’s actions because their actions were a reflection on the whole family and that included her. In order to save herself, Auntie took Tayo in after the war because she wanted to prove to people that she was different; “But advantages wear out; she needed a new struggle, another opportunity to show those who might gossip that she had still another unfortunate burden which proved that, above all else, she was a Christian woman” (30).

Auntie wanted the people of the village to feel sorry for her, so they wouldn’t remember the embarrassing past of her sister. Tayo’s Aunt didn’t like him because he was her sister’s son and he was not a full Native American, but she was willing to tolerate him in her house in order to be a “good” Christian. For Auntie, her son Rocky was the only chance of redemption. Rocky was the only member of her family that did not make her feel ashamed of herself and her family; “She wanted him to be a success. She could see what white people wanted in an Indian, and she believed this way was his only chance.

She saw it as her only chance too, after all the village gossip about her family. When Rocky was a success, no one would dare to say anything against them any more” (51). Rocky was the only person who made her proud and if he was able to escape the family’s bad reputation then she accomplished her goal to bring her family back into the light. Rocky’s success would in a way erase Tayo’s mom’s mistakes. Auntie’s constant worry about her family’s reputation was a side effect of her low self-esteem; it took control over her entire life. Her low self-esteem led to strive to bring honor back to her family, and that in turn led to her anger problem.

Auntie has a definite anger problem because of the disgrace of her family. Her anger is especially targeting Tayo because was half white and he was born out of wedlock. She was embarrassed of Tayo which is why she attempted to keep a distance between Tayo and her son Rocky; “’They’re not brothers,’ she’d say, ‘that’s Laura’s boy. You know the one. ’ She had a way of saying it, a tone of voice which bitterly told the story, and the disgrace she and the family suffered. The things Laura had done weren’t easily forgotten by the people, but she could maintain a distance between Rocky, who was her pride, and this other, unwanted child” (65).

Auntie was trying to gain revenge against her sister by mistreating Tayo; he was not loved by his auntie, instead she showed him revulsion. Auntie’s anger and dislike toward Tayo was shown since the first day Tayo arrived to stay at her house; “He never knew what they said that night because the voices merged into a hum, like night insects around a lamp; but he thought he could hear Auntie raise her voice and the sound of pots and pans slamming together on the stove. And later he learned she did that whenever she was angry” (66).

Auntie was angry that Tayo was going to stay with them because the whole village would be talking about Tayo’s mom and how she just left her half breed son with her family. Auntie blamed Tayo for his mother’s immoral actions but she in no way apprehended that it was not his fault his mother was a whore. Her anger toward her sister did not allow her to love Tayo like a son; she was determined to make his life difficult because he brought shame into her house. Family is the foundation of a person’s life; it is what molds someone’s personality, thoughts and actions. Some people may either love their family or dislike their family.

In Auntie’s case, she detested her family, specifically her sister because she is the one who brought the utmost shame to the family. Auntie became a bitter woman because of the low self-esteem and anger caused by her sister’s actions. She became too concerned about her reputation and she released her distress by making Tayo’s life miserable. Auntie wasn’t able of overcoming her issues because her family was incapable of redeeming its honor. The village never stopped talking about Auntie’s family; she never learned that people would always talk about others even if they are righteous people.