In Silko’s Storyteller, there are many pictures that can help the reader relate to the text that follows or precedes it. The pictures often show a person or group of people doing some sort of work or standing by something of importance to them. Other pictures show the beautiful and unforgiving landscape that is mentioned throughout the book, to help give the reader an idea of how immense some of the areas actually are. A picture and one writing, in particular, show a glimpse into the life of an Indian during this time, and talk about the hardships they faced when combining their Indian heritage with the new world around them. They did not want to forget their history as Indians, but the younger generations were gaining education from other places than there homes, and longed for something more that what was offered in there small towns. It was difficult for them because society was not willing to allow them into all parts of the expanding world.
The picture labeled, “Grandpa Hank and his 1933 Auburn”, on page 185, shows a well-dressed Indian man standing by his car in a very proud manner. He has a flat cap on, big bowtie, shinny shoes, clean white shirt tucked into a pair of fine slacks. This picture portrays a fit man that cares about how he looks and is very confident in himself. The car in the corner also shows that he has done well for himself, and how he may have a love for automobiles. Grandpa Hank is a good example of a man being torn between the two worlds. Although the story of Grandpa Hank and the picture may have just been a little side story from the author, I think it has a deeper meaning and purpose for being included in the book.
A history of Grandpa Hank is on the previous page, and it tells about how he had desires to become something more than Indian’s were allowed to be at that time. He graduated from an Indian institute, and was interested in becoming an automobile designer, but his teachers told him that Indians could not do that type of work. When he returned home from the school he became a store clerk, and eventually was able to buy his own shop. It talks about how he never cared much for what he did, and how he always stayed current with the new car designs because of his longing to be part of them. This history portrays a man that was able and willing to do something more with his life, but was constrained by the society he lived in.
Looking a little more into the picture now that we know the history of the man in it, we see that the picture is taken on a desolate desert road somewhere. It seems odd for a well-dressed man to be in the middle of nowhere taking this picture, but I think it represents the struggle he had throughout his life between his passion of automobiles and the Indian way of life he was expected to become a part of after he finished his education. The expression on his face is not of joy, but could be of a man that is living a life with sadness about giving up on his dream at a young age.
The story and picture teach us about how the Indian people went through a hard transition from their old way of life to the new way of life. Some wanted to be part of the new exciting age of development, but they were held back by societal limitations for being an Indian. It was a very unfair time for them, because they could have still been living like their ancestors once had, but they were being forced into a new way of life with limitations placed on them. Grandpa Hank was a smart man, who did well as a store clerk, shown by the picture, but could have possibly made great contributions to the automobile industry if he had only been given a chance.
All throughout Silko’s Storyteller, there are instances of Indian people being torn between their old way of life and how the world was evolving around them. They wanted to survive and take care of their family, but it was not always a clear path. In Grandpa Hank’s case, he was sent to gain an education, but then had to come home and work as a store clerk for the rest of his life. The picture and story enable us to see a little bit of how the Indian way of life and the outside world started to blend together, but went through a transition period that was not always easy.