Sunday, September 14, 2014

Family and Storyteller

            Images in Silko’s Storyteller play a critical role in the reader’s understanding of the poems and short stories that surround them.  Certain images provide the reader with a visual of what a character looks like, what the landscape in the area is, and explains the importance of photography for her family.  Most importantly, the images cause the reader to draw connections between image and text. For example, the image on page 78 of Silko and her two sisters teaches us about the importance of family in the mythological poem on pages 79 through 83.  In the beginning of the poem, the main character Kochininako is introduced as a Laguna girl who is a good hunter despite her gender.  She goes out and hunts in order to provide food for her mother and her sisters.  The image draws the reader’s attention to the first mention of family in the poem.  The placement of the image before the poem helps the reader understand the close relationship between family and the Laguna culture.
            In the image, all three sisters are dressed in traditional Laguna clothing and moccasins, including silver and turquoise jewelry as mentioned by the caption.  Two out of the three girls are also balancing pottery jars on their heads, which is also traditional in the Laguna culture, but serves another purpose to the reader.  This action shows the reader that it takes a person a large amount of patience, practice, and balance to be close with their family.  At any given moment, turbulence within the family could occur and relationships within the family could be altered or even destructed similar to a clay pot falling off of the head of a Laguna woman.  In order to perfect the skill of balancing a pot or supporting the family, the individual must learn what a life of balance includes and the best way to succeed in that lifestyle.
            How does this understanding play a role in the poem?  As a Laguna woman, Kochininako breaks the traditional culture by hunting like the men do, but keeps her family connections strong.  This is shown by Kochininako breaking the traditional Laguna ways in order to hunt and further provide for her family, which Kochininako ultimately finds more important.  The sacrifice of not fitting in with society is difficult for most individuals and is a reason for lack of confidence.  Kochininako’s decision to suffer through the negative views of society shows her devotion to her family.
            As the poem nears the end, Kochininako is trapped in a cave with Estrucuyu trying to catch her.  She calls the Twin Brothers to save her from this monster.  The Twin Brothers are also referenced as the Hero Brothers, which lets the reader know that they often work together in order to benefit the public.  This is important in terms of family trust.  The Twin Brothers must constantly rely on each other for support and protection when entering dangerous situations like the one in the poem.  This shows the importance of family because it is often easier to trust family because of the immense amount of time spent together.  With family, the sum of time spent together creates an important bond between every member of the family, which is depicted as love.  The love within a family leads to moral agreements, prominent trust, and willingness to sacrifice in order to further benefit the family.
            When the Twin Brothers kill Estrucuyu at the end of the poem, they throw his heart, which eventually turns into rock.  This event is symbolic of family love because they both had to work together in order to achieve the goal of killing the monster. The fact that it turns into rock shows how family love is eternal, as rocks never disappear just as family love never disappears.  Love within a family is important because it is the first place where an individual will experience love.   Love in ones life provides the opportunity for the individual to grow.  Obtaining a sense of self is what makes people human.  Without a family, individuals will not grow and establish a sense of self because they do not have any basis of love and therefore no support develop.
            The importance of family love is a common motif throughout Storyteller as Silko shows her relationships with various members of her family through stories and poems of her own, stories and poems of those close to her, and images of those in her family.  These images provide the reader with important insights into Silko’s life and give the stories and poems emphasis on the details that originally do not seem important.  The image of Silko and her two sisters as children provides one of these insights with the Kochininako myth and the importance of family.  Kochininako gets into her dangerous situation because of family and is ultimately saved by another’s family.  This is ultimately important to the book as a whole because many of the stories involve struggles within family.  Because of poems like this and many others in the novel, the annoyances and problems with family seem to be ultimately worth it for something as unyielding and eternal as family love.



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  2. I really enjoyed reading your essay! The overall theme of family love is an obvious one, but I think you did a great job of using specific examples and bringing in your own insight.
    One thing I would suggest is to expand upon the role of females. This may be because we spoke about feminism and this poem in class, but I think that you start off with some substantial arguments about it and then sidetrack it for family love. For example, in the second paragraph you talk about the girls in the image carrying pottery jars. Then, you go on to explain Kochininako breaking the traditional Laguna culture by hunting. I think there is room to expand upon these details. You have great ideas dealing with family love, so I would be interested to hear your further thoughts on the role of feminism. We mentioned familial feminism in class, so that is one avenue you could take. I believe you could provide a solid argument for both sides to interweave them into one long essay. Maybe expand upon how the strong role of females allows the bond of the family to be stronger. Overall, I think you did a great job of interpreting the poem and the image.

  3. Some of the details that you touched upon re: the image are interesting. I thought your reading of what the pottery jars might mean, for instance, is a bit of a stretch, but that's not always a bad thing - this one seems like an interesting stretch. So you do well with the image itself.

    There are a number of issues with your analysis of the poem, though. Why do you see it as being about familiar love, for instance? It's not a crazy implication to make (there are several mentions of "home", so presumably there might be a family there), but rather than working through why we might think that, under the surface, this is a poem about familial love, you basically just assume that it is. Similarly, you make the leap into assuming that the heart symbolizes familial love - why is that? Even in the "mainstream" American culture hearts are, if anything, more habitually used to evoke romantic love than familial love. That doesn't mean that your claim is absurd - just, again, that you're not really working through the details, but rather making assumptions.

    Most problematically, you never really say anything articulate about details of the poem & details of the text together - why focus on the pottery in the image if you don't have anything to say about what it means in the text, for instance? Ultimately this reads like an analysis of an image (a reasonably good one) plus an analysis of a poem (a less good one) without much glue to tie them together.