Goodreads ratings
3.79 / 5

"Ceremony" Summary

By Leslie Marmon Silko

fiction | 262 pages | Published in NaN

Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution. Tayo's quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremony that defeats the most virulent of afflictions—despair.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young Native American man returns from World War II and experiences a spiritual journey to recover from the traumas of war and reconnect with his cultural heritage.


"Ceremony" is a novel written by Leslie Marmon Silko, first published in 1977. The novel is set in the aftermath of World War II and follows the story of a young Native American man, Tayo, who is struggling to find his place in the world after returning from the war. "Ceremony" is a powerful exploration of identity, culture, and the impact of war on individuals and communities. Silko weaves together traditional Native American storytelling with modern narrative techniques to create a rich and compelling story.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The novel is set in the Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico and follows the story of Tayo, a young Native American man who is struggling with the trauma of his experiences during World War II. Tayo returns to the reservation haunted by his memories of the war and the loss of his cousin Rocky, who was killed in combat. As he attempts to reintegrate into his community, Tayo is plagued by feelings of alienation and despair.

Main Characters

TayoA young Native American man struggling with the trauma of war and the loss of his cousin Rocky.
RockyTayo's cousin who is killed in combat during World War II.
AuntieTayo's caretaker who raised him after his mother died.
BetonieA medicine man who helps Tayo on his journey of healing and self-discovery.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3

Tayo returns to the reservation and struggles to cope with the trauma of the war and the loss of his cousin Rocky. He is haunted by his memories and feels disconnected from his community.

Chapter 4-6

Tayo meets Betonie, a medicine man who offers to help him heal and find his place in the world. Betonie introduces Tayo to traditional Native American rituals and ceremonies.

Chapter 7-9

Tayo begins to participate in the ceremonies and rituals prescribed by Betonie, but he continues to struggle with feelings of guilt and alienation.

Chapter 10-12

Tayo embarks on a journey of self-discovery, confronting his past and seeking to find meaning and healing in the midst of his pain.

Main Events

  • Tayo's return to the reservation
  • Tayo's struggle with the trauma of war
  • Meeting Betonie, the medicine man
  • Participation in traditional ceremonies and rituals
  • Tayo's journey of self-discovery and healing

Themes and Insights

Identity and Belonging

The novel explores the theme of identity and belonging, as Tayo grapples with his sense of self and his place within his community. His struggle to reconcile his experiences during the war with his traditional upbringing reflects the broader theme of cultural identity.

Healing and Redemption

"Ceremony" delves into the theme of healing and redemption, as Tayo seeks to overcome his trauma and find a sense of peace and purpose. Through traditional Native American ceremonies and rituals, Tayo embarks on a journey of inner healing and reconciliation.

Impact of War

The novel also delves into the profound impact of war on individuals and communities, highlighting the lasting trauma and dislocation experienced by those who have served in combat. Tayo's struggle to reintegrate into his community serves as a poignant exploration of the aftermath of war.

Reader's Takeaway

Readers of "Ceremony" will be captivated by the lyrical prose and profound insights into Native American culture and spirituality. The novel offers a compelling exploration of trauma, healing, and the enduring power of tradition.


In "Ceremony," Leslie Marmon Silko delivers a poignant and evocative portrayal of one man's journey to find healing and meaning in the aftermath of war. Through the character of Tayo and the rich tapestry of Native American storytelling, Silko offers a powerful meditation on identity, culture, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.

Ceremony FAQ

  1. What is the genre of Ceremony?

    Ceremony is a novel that falls under the genres of fiction, Native American literature, and historical fiction.

  2. Who is the author of Ceremony?

    Ceremony is written by Leslie Marmon Silko, a Native American author of the Laguna Pueblo tribe.

  3. What is the main theme of Ceremony?

    The main themes of Ceremony include the impact of war on individuals and communities, the struggle for cultural identity, and the healing power of tradition and ceremony.

  4. What is the setting of Ceremony?

    Ceremony is set in the aftermath of World War II on the Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico.

  5. Who is the protagonist of Ceremony?

    The protagonist of Ceremony is Tayo, a Laguna Pueblo man who is struggling with the psychological and spiritual wounds of war.

  6. What is the significance of the title 'Ceremony'?

    The title 'Ceremony' refers to the traditional rituals and ceremonies that play a central role in the healing and spiritual journey of the protagonist, Tayo.

  7. Is Ceremony based on real historical events?

    While Ceremony is a work of fiction, it is grounded in the historical realities of the experiences of Native Americans during and after World War II.

  8. What is the writing style of Leslie Marmon Silko in Ceremony?

    Leslie Marmon Silko employs a lyrical and evocative writing style in Ceremony, incorporating traditional storytelling techniques and the use of Native American oral traditions.