Monday, September 8, 2014

Storyteller - Surviving With Others

In Storyteller, I want to talk about the image on page 31 and describe its relationship to the text in which it is a part of, along with the poem, “Indian Song: Survival,” and the subsequent story on pages 36-40. The photo on page 31 has the caption, “Marie Anaya Marmon, Grandma A’mooh, in her kitchen with my sisters, Wendy and Gigi.” It is a photo of the author’s grandmother sitting at a kitchen table, reading some sort of book aloud to the two young girls. The photograph supports the texts I mentioned above really well because it relates to what I think to be the main idea of this portion of the novel. This photograph teaches us that we need support in order to survive. No one can handle everything alone and this is evident in the texts.

In the text that the picture is embedded in, the author writes about Grandma A’mooh and her relationship with her as a young girl. She would care for her and her sisters while their mother worked. She explained that she would spend a lot of time with her because she was of old age and there was concern over her accidentally falling. What she reveals, however, is that it wasn’t a chore to do this and that she actually enjoyed it. She slept with her, helped her with chores, washed her hair and observed skills she would have to learn in the future, such as grinding red chili. She even listened to the stories told about “the olden days.” As a result, they became each other’s support system. They relied on one another to get through the daily hardships of life. During her last years, she was sent to Albuquerque to live with Aunt Bessie, her daughter. It’s said that she had no one to talk to all day and therefore, didn’t last long (33). This is evidence of the need for support, whether it is from friendship or family. If one doesn’t have it, they would essentially not have the will to live.

The poem, “Indian Song: Survival,” also gives evidence for this argument. It talks about surviving and traveling north to escape the winter. Nature is described as being rough with cold river water, ice on the cattails, and black mountain dirt. I believe the perspective we are reading this poem from is from the lean gray deer. This deer is trying to survive from the harsh winter. It isn’t alone, however, because certain elements of nature are on its side. It hides in a spider’s web, music is heard from branches and dry leaves, and the green spotted frogs sing to the river. There is also the mountain lion with dark yellow eyes acting as a companion and joining it on the journey north. The lines, “You lie beside me in the sunlight,” and “Mountain lion shows me the way,” indicates that the mountain lion is there to support it and implies that without one another, they would not be able to escape the winter and survive (35).

The following story on pages 36-40 talks about two sisters losing their family and their people. The older girl was anxious to take care of her sister on this particular day and they traveled to Shell Lake to look at the beautiful butterflies and flowers. When they returned to their village that night, everyone was gone. Only an old man answered and told them that everyone had left to escape the giant flood that was coming. The sisters followed their foot tracks to find them. The little sister was carried and comforted by the older sister, even singing a song when she cried. The floodwater eventually reached them and each time the little sister got upset, the older sister was there to comfort her. When they finally reached their people, they saw them all turn into stone. Although there is no explanation for the ending of this story, it can be seen that the two sisters were there for one another throughout the entire trip. They were abandoned and left in a dangerous situation and relied on each other to survive. They made it to their people on the mesa, which was their end goal. 

The image and these texts work well together to explain that at the very heart of survival is support. One needs guidance and reassurance, which provides the will and the ability to survive. The image of Grandma A’mooh and the author’s sisters gives the feeling of a strong bond, one that, as we learned in the ending of the embedded text, Grandma A’mooh once needed in order to survive.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure what you're really trying to do here. The only obvious argument would read something like "people need support to survive" - but that is so simple and so obvious that it's not really a suitable argument at any time, let alone a suitable argument about a specific book. Which isn't to say that you shouldn't be making a more precise argument about Silko's understanding of how support and survival relate.

    You summarize too much and analyze too little. Here's an example. You give a long, detailed summary of the story about the girls and how the people turn into stone. You want to turn it into a story about support, but although you acknowledge the problem with that (that they're turned to stone anyway!) you don't deal with that problem.

    Similarly, you summarize ways in which Silko's great-grandmother (not her grandmother, unless I badly misremember) is important to her, and gives her support. But you don't get into any of the interesting problems in that relationship, circulating around the book they read, language, religion, etc. You stick to too much summarizing and drawing an incredibly general point from them, rather than focusing on the weirder/more problematic/more difficult parts of the text, and making an argument about what *they* mean.

    Short version: if you summarize and say things that everyone will agree with (support is important...) you're not really arguing anything at all.