"Yellow Woman" by Leslie Marmon Silko

02Jan05

In this story, Silko explores boundaries – boundaries between reality and myth, between modern and traditional Indian culture, between Indian and other cultures.

Through this tale, Silko seems to attempt to preserve an Indian myth, that of the Yellow Woman and the ka’tsina mountain spirit who became her lover, by including it in a story set in contemporary times. This myth adds mystery to the narrator’s relationship with Silva. Most likely, Silva is simply a man who rustles cattle, but his calling the narrator “Yellow Woman” calls into question his true identity, for both the narrator and the reader. The space in which “Yellow Woman” and Silva’s relationship takes place becomes a place of myth and tradition. The narrator mentions knowing of pick-up trucks and highways, but with Silva they ride horses and sleep on blankets on the ground. When the narrator returns to her home at the end of the story, she also returns to reality and modernity—the reference to her grandmother preparing Jell-O is rather jarring.

In Silva’s mythic world, the narrator experiences a feeling of liberation and Silko does not seem to judge the narrator for her adultery. But her relationship with Silva does not appear to offer much freedom. The narrator speaks of feeling Silva’s body “all around [her], pushing her down into the white river sand.” When she tries to pull away from him at one point he says, “You don’t understand, do you, little Yellow Woman? You will do what I want.” And there are other images of Silva entrapping her in some small way, like refusing to release her wrist when she tries to pull away. However, at the end of the story the narrator desires to find Silva waiting for her on the bank of the river some day in the future.

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