Friday, May 20, 2011

Of dreams and visions

As I've mentioned before, I'm very interested in how dreams are used to tell stories. What I didn't mention is that I'm also interested in how visions are used in stories.

Today I went through Ceremony by Leslie Silko to find all the places where there is a dream or vision. I only took about an hour and a half for the whole thing, and there could be one or two dreams/visions that I missed, but I've got most if not all of them. So now I get to sort them out! Which is what I'm doing here.

And I'm not gonna explain details of the story, so you'll probably get lost if you haven't already read Ceremony.

Also, I'm thinking this out as I type for the most part, so don't expect me to be writing essay quality stuff. I'm sort of just writing notes for myself and figure that I may as well put them on my blog. Who knows, maybe I have a follower who's read Ceremony and who has ideas about what some of these dreams mean! If so, I'd love to hear. :)


"...calling up humid dreams of black night and loud voices rolling over him and over again like debris caught in a flood. Tonight the singing had come first, squeaking out of the iron bed, a man singing in Spanish, the melody of a familiar love song, two words again and again, 'Y volvere.' Sometimes the Japanese voices came first..." (5-6.)

I'm not going to write out the whole thing.

This dream moves chaotically from one thing to another. From his time in Japan, the man singing Spanish (which I can't fit in with the rest of the story...), to his uncle Josiah, words from the Laguna language, a many random things.

Maybe on further inspection this dream will hold even more significance, but I think it shows his confused state of mind. And it's right in the beginning of the story so it helps to set things up.

What does the man singing Spanish have to do with anything? Or is it just in there to provide randomness?

" that instant he saw Josiah standing there; the face was dark from the sun, the eyes were squinting as though he were about to smile at Tayo. So Tayo stood there, stiff with nausea, while they fired at hte soldiers, and he watched his uncle fall, and he knew it was Josiah; and even after Rocky started shaking him by the shoulders and telling him to stop crying, it was still Josiah lying there" (7-8.)

This is a vision Tayo has while serving in WWII. When he is ordered to execute Japanese soldiers he can't because he sees his beloved uncle Josiah among them.

He doesn't understand it at the time, and is convinced that it was his uncle there even though he knows his uncle is on another continent entirely on their rez. Later in the book (I don't feel like hunting the place down right this minute though) he comes to understand that he saw his uncle because of how the whole world is interconnected. So yes, his uncle was there, even though his uncle wasn't.

So if his uncle was there (even though he really wasn't) was Tayo somehow responsible for not preventing his death? Hmm...

"...visions and memories of the past did not penetrate there..." (15.)

I was sure this also mentioned dreams! Oh well, visions are mentioned anyways.

This takes place in the Veteran's Hospital, which is a place so alien to Tayo that he cannot recover there. (Actually, an entire essay could probably be written about Tayo's relationship with the place.) The fact that he cannot have any visions (or memories) is an indicated of how foreign the place is to him, and the fact that he needs to get out of there.

"He woke up crying. He had dreamed Josiah had been hugging him close the way he had when Tayo was a child, and in the dream he smelled Josiah's smell -- horses, woodsmoke, and sweat -- the smell he had forgotten until the dream; and he was overcome with all the love there was" (32.)

Here he's remembering his dead uncle, and is revisiting the past. I guess the significance of this dream is that it shows how much he loved Josiah, and is showing how he viewed Josiah and what he loved about him.

"It was a warm night; he lay down int he old hay and he slept all night without dreams" (105.)

Yes, I figure it's worth noting when it's noted that he doesn't dream. After all, maybe a lack of dreams are as important as the dreams that are mentioned? That's my theory, anyways.

Tayo has been visiting places that hold memories for him, and he's learning to come to peace with things. Or anyways, he's beginning to learn. The lack of dreams is, I think, an indication that he's calming down.

"He dreamed about the speckled cattle. They had seen him and they were scattering between juniper trees, through tall yellow grass, below the mesas near the dripping spring. Some of them had spotted calves who ran behind them, their bony rumps flashing white and disappearing into the trees. He tried to run after them, but it was no use without a horse. They were gone, running southwest again, toward the high, lone-standing mesa the people called Pa'to'ch" (145.)

Josiah bought the cattle with his life savings (or with a lot of his savings, anyways) and I think that taking care of them is a way for Tayo to honor Josiah's memory. Tayo has this dream after a ceremony that Betonie performs for him, so I think that the dream is to show Tayo what he needs to do to complete the ceremony.

(And what is the ceremony anyways? Must figure this out!)

I'm not sure what the significance of the place Pa'to'ch is. Maybe it's named later in the book...I'm bad with names so it could be a significant place and I just never caught the name! Hmm...

"He dreamed about the cattle that night. It was a continuous dream that was not interrupted even when she reached out for him again and pulled him on top of her. He went on dreaming while he moved inside her, and when he heard her whisper, he saw them scatter over the crest of a round bare hill, running away from him, scattering out around him like ripples in still water" (181.)

Here we see the dream getting mixed together with what's going on in the physical world. It is his first night with Ts'eh, and I think that the fact that she's getting mixed up with his dream is an indication that she is part of finding the cattle, and part of the ceremony Tayo needs to complete.

"The spotted cattle wouldn't be lost any more, scattered through his dreams..." (192.)

Tayo is gathering up the cattle, reclaiming them from the white man who stole them, and the fact that this will have an impact on his dreams shows that life has an affect on dreams.

So, once he gathers them up he'll stop dreaming about them being lost.

"He dreamed with her, dreams that lasted all night, dreams full of warm deep caressing and lingering desire which left him sleeping peacefully until dawn, when he would wake up at the first dim light with her presence and the feeling that she had been with him all night" (215.)

First of all, "He dreamed WITH her..." So was she participating in the dreams? Were they sharing a dream? That's what it seems like. And why not? Ts'eh is some sort of medicine person, and that seems like a medicine person thing.

Also, notice that his dream is taken up with her. Not with the cattle, who have by this point been retrieved. She's part of the ceremony, or else she's helping him find his way in the ceremony, so she's part of his life. Or maybe she is his life.

"He was dreaming of her arms around him strong, when the rain on the tin roof woke him up. But the feeling he had, the love he felt for her, remained" (217.)

Ditto. Oh, and the peace he feels with her is remaining in his waking hours!

"He dreamed he made love with her there. He felt the warm sand on his toes and knees; he felt her body, and it was as warm as the sand, and he couldn't feel where her body ended and the sand began" (222.)

Hmm, comparing her to the she a form of the mother who gave life to everything? Is Ts'eh a representation of the goddess? I won't suggest that she is a/the goddess because I don't think she is. Then she?

"He woke up choking on humid jungle air, but when he pushed back the bnlanket he was in the cave, and it was his own sweat and heavy breathing that made the air seem damp" (235.)

Here she's left Tayo, and he has regressed somewhat. The fact that he thinks he's back in the Philippines might qualify as a vision/dream, so I added to the list.

"He dreamed with his eyes open that he was wrapped in a blanket in the back of Josiah's wagon, crossing the sandy flat below Paguate Hill. The cholla and juniper shivered in the wind, and the rumps of the two gray mules were twin moons in front of him. Josiah was driving the wagon, old Grandma was holding him, and Rocky whispered 'my brother.' They were taking him home" (254.)

He's returning home, to where he was before WWII. True, Josiah and Rocky are dead, but he hasn't really lost them. They're still there. That isn't said outright in the book, but my understanding is that if he can dream about them then he really hasn't lost them. And his grandmother is still alive.

Josiah, Rocky, and Grandma were the three people who he loved the most before WWII. They still are, although I think that their number has been expanded to include Ts'eh. There's no way I'm going to try to bump any of those three out of "most loved people" to try to fit her in.''

Hey, in a lot of stories three is the magic number, but I know that for some Native American cultures it's four. So is four the magic number here? I don't know. I don't know enough about Navajo to know.

And I think that Ts'eh isn't in the dream because if he's going back to where he was before WWII, that wouldn't include her, because he didn't know her then.

And could it also be that she was part of the ceremony, and now that it is complete she has moved on and he will never see her again? That might also be why she's not in this dream.

No comments:


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