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originally published in the 1974 anthology, The Man to Send Rain Clouds: Contemporary Stories by American Indians, edited by Kenneth Rosen.

Language & Form

English short story inspired by Native American oral narratives and storytelling


The woman narrator goes for a walk by the river where she meets a mysterious man, Silva, who seduces her. He tells her that he is a ka'tsina (kachina) spirit and calls her "Yellow Woman," invoking a character in stories that the narrator had heard from her grandfather. Although she doubts that he is really a ka'tsina spirit, the narrator feels compelled to go up the mountain with Silva and makes love with him repeatedly. Silva is involved in cattle rustling and possibly murder. Though eventually she leaves him and returns to her village, she is sad to be without him and hopes that he will again seek her out by the river.

Main Issues

much of the story centers on the identity of the narrator and of Silva; issues of personal and cultural identity; relation of identity to social roles and narratives; current social roles subverted by old narrative; question of the significance of different/alternative roles created by stories.

issues of allegiances to society and to forces outside of society; marriage and adultery; the human and the spiritual worlds; the social and the natural realms.

issues of duty and desire, social obligations and dreams beyond the confines of social norms.

issues of boundaries; much of the action concerns crossing and recrossing of borders or frontiers; question of significance of different spaces and transgression of established boundaries/limits.

critique of private property; critical role of the images of stealing; conflicts over property; relations of culture to property.

Laguna Pueblo spirituality: addressing of relations between human beings, between cultures, and between people and the natural world.

relationship between myth and reality; myth as critique and transformation of reality.

human, anthropological, cultural, political, social, and economic significance of the story.

relationship between storytelling and understanding of self and human life.

Study Questions

What is the significance of the narrator's romantic adventure with Silva? Is Silva a spirit? Is the narrator "Yellow Woman"? Is it significant that the word "silva" means "forest" or "jungle"? What does that suggest? What does he represent? Why does the narrator follow Silva and accept the role of Yellow Woman? Are the old stories about the ka'tsina spirit and Yellow Woman relevant to Silva and the narrator? What do the stories make possible? What do they suggest concerning human desire and human society? How do they make the love relationship possible? How do such stories fit in with other values and social and moral considerations? How does the story view the issue of adultery and of the narrator abandoning her family to follow Silva? Is she judged or condemned for it? Does she feel guilty about it?

How does the narrator describe her experience of Silva' body? What is the significance of the frequent mention of warmth and dampness? How about the experience of riding the horse? Why does she repeatedly say she feels hungry? How are sensory and bodily perceptions treated in the story? What do they suggest concerning the significance of the situation and the experiences of the narrator?

What does Pueblo mythology seem to suggest regarding human identity and social roles? Is personal identity in the story always the same and always stable? Can a person have more than one identity? Why? How? What forces determine those identities? How or why does identity change? What are the causes, implications, and effects of changes of role or identity?

What is the significance of geographical spaces and directions (north, south, etc) and movement in those directions? How does physical space function in the story? What is its meaning? How are boundaries established? What is the significance of the crossing or transgression of boundaries? Why does Silva say, "from here I can see the world"? What kind of a perception is that? What is his point of view? Is it significant that he mentions the boundaries and areas occupied by the Navajos, the Pueblo people, the Texans, and the Mexicans? What issues do such divisions suggest? How do Silva's perceptions alter or subvert that cultural geography?

Why does Silva say he steals from others? What does he steal? Is his stealing significant in any way? How is it connected to the issues of boundaries and divisions? What does his stealing accomplish or suggest? How does he look at private property? What kind of a statement does Silva make through his stealing (including the stealing of Yellow Woman)? Is she too someone's property?

Why does the narrator give in to Silva's desires? Are they also her desires? In what way? What does her lack of resistance suggest? What does Silva have to offer her?

What is the significance of their encounter with the fat, white man? How is the man characterized? What does he say to Silva? What happens then? Does Silva kill him? What does that suggest?

Why is the narrator sad at leaving Silva? Why does she want to go back to him and kiss and touch him? Why does she believe he will come back?

What is the significance of the narrator's wish that her grandfather could be alive to hear her story? How is storytelling connected to the ideas and issues brought up in the story?

How are gender issues treated in this story? Is Silko a feminist or is she merely reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes? Is the narrator breaking free from oppression or merely giving in to a new oppressor?

How about cultural and social norms? How are they viewed? Are they criticized or upheld? From what point of view? Are some cultures seen as more or less valuable than others? Is Silko suggesting the existence of truths or forces that transcend culture and society? What might those be?

How does this story define spirituality? How is that spirituality connected to the relations between individuals and between different cultures? How is spirituality connected to the relations between human beings and the natural world? What roles do Silva and the narrator play in the definition of that spirituality?

How is myth employed in the critique of a given social and cultural order? Can myth and fiction play a role in the transformation of the real world? What does the story suggest?


to come


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