"The Only Cure I Know Is a Good Ceremony": Post-traumatic Reconstruction of Identity in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony


  • Valerio Massimo De Angelis




The article deals with the representation of post-traumatic stress disorder in Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977), and with the complex psychological and cultural procedures of identity reconstruction its protagonist, half-blood Tayo, must follow in order to find some sort of inner balancing. Tayo’s traumatic experience of war seems to schizophrenically split his identity, turning his “real” self into a Lacanian absence (the symptom of the “Real”), a void that denounces the source of the trauma (not the war in itself, which is mainly a metaphorical projection of Tayo’s inner conflict, but his being neither Indian nor white) by erasing it from Tayo’s consciousness and substituting it with a mythical plot that constructs him as a scapegoat-like figure responsible for the drought afflicting the Reservation. Both the novel and its main character at the end manage to reach some sort of coherence by accepting the unrepresentable Real and turning it upside down: they both finally reject the dream of a homogenous identity, and the trauma, no more something to be simply “cured,” is transformed into a source of self-definition, thanks to the equally polymorphic, hybrid, “broken” ceremonies Tayo is subject to in the novel.


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Articles (general section) - American language, literature, and culture