Analysis of Discourses in Leslie Silko's "Yellow Woman"

Essay, 2016
5 Pages, Grade: 76.2



Every Literature work gives exposure the historical and cultural issues in the society it is taken. Analysis of the piece of work is necessary for learning the virtues and time fact of society. In the story, "Yellow Woman" by Leslie Silko, the author brings to light a compendium on regard to the voice of a woman. The author manages to explore pertinent issues within the historical and cultural setting of the Native American. The relevant matters surveyed include marriage, spiritualism, change, nature, gender, storytelling, resistance, and wisdom incarnate in the elderly Native Americans. Silko successively brings into light that ideology of living a worth life that is admirable and meaningful in society. In this story, the author authoritatively discourses the facets of life based on her experience from her family and the treatment she receives from her parents and the grandparents. The Pueblo society cherishes and adores character, strength, and kindness to both people and life.

The problem of Identity exists in this society. Many Native American of the 19th and 20th century show the struggles the community goes trough to claim her appropriate identity. Stories and legends of yellow woman are dominating the society. Why choose yellow women? Why colour? In another legend, Badger and Coyote go hunting and late in the evening find a girl lonely in a house that they describe as having light hair and eye (Silko, 368). The examples are given above clearly match the stereotype immigrant went through in America during the 19th and 20th century. Ambiguity is equally present in the Pueblo community. The society is going through an evolution process and uncertainty in what is to be and not to exist still. Is the narrator the yellow woman? Is she living in the present world? Is Silva, Navajo, and Kat'sina the same person or different? All this ambiguity and identity crises are crucial in the analysis of the society issues.

Gender role is widely explored in this story. Different genders have their specific duties in the society and the expected norms they ought to adhere to at all times irrespective of the place. The society has but a clear distinction between the works of man and that a woman is expected to perform. The woman is a weaker person whose work should revolve around the housework and child nursing. When the narrator and Silva riches the house in the mountain, we note that they respond to their expected role respectively. Silva show her the potatoes and a frying pan, and she return to frying them without questioning (Silko, 370) Thought the story Silva gives direction on what to do and the narrator responds with little resistance. In the Native American culture, the woman takes a passive role in a family or else faced with violence. When the two are about to sleep, and Silva undresses her ready for sex, she tries to reject but realize the kind of violence she is likely to get. The man gives protection and provides for the woman (Silko, 373). Naturally, this society keeps norm on gender role regardless of the situation

In the Native American world, nature comprises of animated and inanimate. Spirits and land are part of nature. The narrator finds herself between opposing word. She is confronted with her day to day life in a civilized manner but still with the mythical life of her people. The society does acknowledge the presence of spirits in their day to day world. In the tale, the narrator quickly expresses that if the grandfather was alive; he could have the rest of the family about the missing of the narrator. The grandpa is aware of the way spirit kat'sina abduct women that go missing (Silko, 371). The spirit from time to time takes women from the society, and those people aware of this act are not amazed. The narrator gets amazed on how Sative manage to get women to his house at the top of the hill. The narrators probe Silva on the whether he use the same tactic to get other women into his place (Silko, 370). Is the narrator aware she is sleeping, walking and living with a spirit and not Silva? The calmness of the narrator throughout the mystical journey and the boldness of characters towards the spirits indicate that the spirits and their participation in this society are something normal.

Continuation of the history the community of which Silko write about is carried out through storytelling. The Lugana culture is rich in traditional and oral history. The community cherishes stories that reflect its past and therefore comparative between the present and the past is possible through a tale. The narrator of the Yellow Woman gives details of old stories of women abduction in the society. She starts with her grandfather's stories on the spirit kat'sina and Coyote and Badger. The narrator is so impressed with storytelling to the point that she tale stories thought her experience in this mythical adventure. The narrator tales a story a story of a Yellow Woman, who went with a spirit from North, lived with him and finally came back with twin boys (Silko, 368). The narrator is constantly giving Silva legends that he even when he seems absent minded. The narrator is naturally a story teller who is persuasive to her listener, Silva. The narrator is determined that her experience will be part of the Pueblo legends. She wishes that her grandfather was alive to listen to her experience; the story he loved most (Silko, 368). The narrator wishes that the coming generation should come to the knowledge of her encounter in a world with spirits.

Change emerges in history at the appropriate time in a gradual manner. Time change and old culture and tradition become obsolete. The writer indicates that time had come for society to go beyond the existing in norms. The narrator, Yellow Woman, is different from the yellow woman in the Pueblo legend. The narrator has gone to school, roads and pickup truck that did not exist in the time of legends involving the Yellow Woman (Silko, 369). The two yellow women the author is talking about represent a significant change that the society has gone through history. The narrator stays with the Silva for a few day and comes back home unlike the yellow women in the legends who stayed with the north spirit for quite a long time till she comes back to her people with twin boys she has to give birth. Silva does not stay with the narrator for such a long period showing that there is a change on how it used to be in the legend stories and new stories of abduction. There is a transitional change in the climatic and weather conditions in the setting of this story. The story opens with the narrator sleeping at the riverbed in a hot afternoon (Silko, 367). The two travel to the hilltop and reach there in the evening that is too chill to stand outside but rather go inside where it is warm (Silko, 369). The journey passes through a changing environment. The two rides through cottonwood trees, to junipers, then opinions and lastly pine tree at the top of the mountain (Silko, 369). All these transitions are represented in this episode are both contextual and historical.

Marriage is central to the Native American society. Traditionally, every woman is expected to grow up get married and brings a family. We note that the narrator went through the same cycle of life; she went to school, got married and now she has a baby. The life of her parents and grandparents has gone through the same cycle she is contented that her mother will raise her child the same way they raised her (Silko, 371). When she is on the mountain, the thought of her husband still comes. She develops a mind of what might be happening at home, mother to raise the baby and her husband Al get married to another woman. Is she not enjoying life? Should they not continue with life too? The author put all of the weight on the issues related to marriage and family thus just as the nineteenth century respected marriage and family.

In conclusion, the Yellow Woman story contextual and historical analysis refills the context in which the literature is set. The work exposes the social, cultural way of life other concerned people. On the other hand, the historical perspective exactly fits the nineteenth century and its happening. Literature is, therefore, important in learning the ways of life in the light of time. Through contextual analysis of literary work, a lot of information about the society can be obtained.

Work cited

Silko, Leslie Marmon."YellowWoman."1974.Rpt. In Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Naive American Literature. Edited by John L.Purdy and James Ruppert. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall 2001. 367-74


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Analysis of Discourses in Leslie Silko's "Yellow Woman"
Kenyatta University
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gender, identity, native american
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Doctor Alfhonce Michael (Author), 2016, Analysis of Discourses in Leslie Silko's "Yellow Woman", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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