Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad are two creative works of art, written in very different contexts but with a similar aim of reconciling collective beliefs to individual beliefs.
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Their styles, the use of characters and writing techniques are different, but they both aim at bringing harmony to the apparently complex plots. They successfully do so as they take analogies of undertaking a journey, from the beginning, the rise of conflict and in finding a resolution.
Personal Experiences of Marlow and Tayo in the Heart of Darkness and Ceremony Respectively
In both novels, the writers use fiction in an attempt to bring their own personal experience to paper. The key concern in both has to do with bridging between traditional values and the ideals of modernism. Conrad, when he was serving as a steamboat commander in Congo, was open to brutality of Western world.
He relates his own experience to his main character, a protagonist in relation to the antagonist characters like Kurtz or the general manager. Leslie Marmon Silko uses her personal experience as a Native American in the Ceremony.
The Native American culture is passed on through a profoundly communal process of storytelling from Tayo’s grandmother, who on sensing the hopelessness in her grandchild, invites the medicine man, Ku’oosh to perform a traditional ritual on him.
For reconciliation to occur Tayo has to make difficult choices. He heads to the mountain in search of his Uncle Josiah’s lost cattle, which symbolize a new way of life.
During this journey he meets Ts’eh Montano, a woman his spirit is rejuvenated as she who begins to teach him Native American old traditions. Silko bases her work on traditional Native American stories, using narrative techniques that emphasize Tayo’s individual belief in relation to their communal aspects.
In both stories, the protagonists are in a journey (Silko, 87). Marlow in Heart of Darkness explores the uncharted journey to Congo, Africa. Poignantly, in Congo, he realizes that, the uncivilized Natives, perhaps, have more common sense than the Europeans who came to enlighten them.
It is only when he understands the need for balancing moderation between assimilation of western ideologies, and native beliefs that a resolution is reached.
The Departure, Initiation, Return stages Illustrated in the Two Novels
Tayo in the Ceremony attempts to reconcile his people’s traditions healing ceremonies to cure the new modern illnesses. This is evidenced by a traumatized Native American, from the Laguna Pueblo because of his unstable upbringing and experiences during World War
II. Further the trauma, is surged because of brawls insinuated by his childhood pals; Leroy, Harley, Emo and Pinkie, who also participated in the war, hence, leading to self-medicating. This situation gives them a temporal solution. On the contrary, Marlow puts himself in the position of an observer who sees the brutality of the white colonialist towards the natives.
Tayo, who participates in the ceremony and has to undergo his people’s ritual to redeem them either from the drought or from the oppression. This is evident with characters acting as the protagonist in both novels to contrast their own beliefs and the reality.
In the Heart of Darkness, Conrad embraces Marlow, whose preliminary objective is to locate Kurtz, who feels they have a common passion for the wilderness (89). As the story proceeds, it is ostensible that Kurtz is frenzied in this wilderness, which hints to his own end.
The general manager, although he has great devotion to the natives but in real sense concerned more about his own success. The brick maker cannot make the bricks because he supposedly has no material. Overall, Kurtz symbolizes how Europeans when they began to realize their harm to Africa. Kurtz relationship with the mistress the passion for Africa by whites which is only temporary.
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His terminal illness is a representation of the eventual death of imperialism as they are unable to adapt or respect the existing African culture (Conrad, 90).
In the end, Marlow tells kurtz intended that his last words were her name this is symbolic of the imperialist noble act to explore and try to do good in her honor and to African continent respectively. Unlike in ceremony Tayo’s friends are in admiration of the oppressive white society for giving them the opportunity to fight in the war.
In the Ceremony, the protagonist is continually saddened, by how his childhood friends Harley, Leroy, Emo, and Pinkie spend most of their time drinking and in reminiscing about how much they felt respected in their soldier uniforms great during the war. For Tayo, this is an indication of negative bias the Native Americans experiences by the whites, whom, paradoxically they seem to esteem.
As Tayo’s journey unfolds, we are met with the story of an individual, which interweaves that of his entire community. The Native Americans culture and beliefs are portrayed as wonderful and worthy assimilating and be adopt in a white society.
The “Master of the Two Worlds”
Silko (74) illustrate that Tayo feels nausea, and vomits before Ku’oosh leaves in the ceremony, and Ku’oosh recognizes that he has no powers to cure him. The healing cannot happen because, “Some phenomenon cannot be cured like we used to since the white people came”(109).
In The Heart of Darkness, the inherent succeeds to endure the repetitive efforts of initial white subjugators, to rescind their traditional way of life, they become stronger in sustaining the conditions that loom their values, unlike before. In both novels, the protagonist, have to be removed from a state of comfort and undergo through continuous opposing forces to reach a resolution.
The plot is carefully developed by Silko such that in Tayo embarking on a journey full of personal ceremonies to bridge Native American traditions and those of the westerners. Conversely, Conrad embraces Marlow as an arbitrator between the two extreme of Kurtz and the Company
This moderation as the protagonist allows the reader to identify with him. In the end, the writer resolution is effective in reconciling Marlow, uncorrupt white who is open minded and sensitive and does not become indoctrinated to the materialistic ideals of the imperialists.
Kutz’s last words, “horror ,horror” show that his struggle between his evil tendencies and his conscience as expressed by Marlow to his intended who is a symbol of good is unable to corrupt that by rendering kurtz’ words. Oddly, it is through death that Kurtz turns to the world he had been so isolated.
However, through this isolation, he seeks Marlow for the preservation of his legacy. Both Marlow and Tayo’s disillusionment begin very early. Marlow’s disillusionment starts when he arrives on the shores of Africa (Conrad, 9). What he had expected he does not get, the atmosphere and the people has changed.
The black people he had once viewed as savages seem to make more sense that the supposed civilized white people. Tayo’s has to experience separation just like Marlow; he has to leave the very circumstance of his experiences and upbringing.
His words are formed with invisible tongue as the army physician tells him; the continued drought situation and other challenges create the need to find a solution. The climax is where the ceremony with Betonie cannot be completed.
He has to go to the mountain where he meets Ts’eh Montano, the spirit woman who he is aware at last that she has always loved him and his people. Tayo bridges the distance between the collective beliefs of his people and his own isolated consciousness because he has loved the Spirit Woman who brings all things into being.
Tayo challenges the American ideal of bravery to include an emotional awakening, “He cried finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together-the old stories, the war stories, and their stories to become the story that was still being told” (Silko, 246).
When he returns from the mountain even His own grandmother admits that that he is no longer special but has been integrated into the of Laguna way of life. She comments: “these happenings do not excite me anymore “(Silko, 260). Perhaps she is also implying the successful merging of the two worlds.
In both novels, the writers have been successful in their use of creative writing in a build- up of conflict to achieve very conclusive resolutions. Their differences in character and style of writing can be the ultimate achievement in reconciling the conflict of different worlds into one.
Conrad Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Oxford: Bibliolis Books, 2010
Silko Marmon Leslie. Ceremony. New York: New American Library, 1978