The Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko wrote the novel Ceremony to tell the story of how a grown man deals with postwar drama. Tayo struggles to live a healthy life within society after his experiences during the war where he saw his close cousin die in his own arms. Tayo struggles with the effects of the war as well as his mixed heritage and how his treatment by both whites and Native Americans is poor. Other characters in the novel that deal with being mixed are Betonie, Night swan and Ts??™eh. Silko uses Tayo??™s encounters with these others who are of mixed heritage to enable him to accept his own identity as a half-breed.
Night Swan is an older and loving woman who shows Tayo that there is nothing wrong with being part Native American. Night Swan is a half Mexican woman who has experienced a lot in her days and creates a nervous and mysterious feeling for Tayo. It??™s her knowledge of the past and what she has experienced that helps Tayo fully understand that there is no problem with having a mixed background. ???I always wished I had dark eyes like other people??? (99). Night swan replies to Tayo??™s wish by telling him that the white people are intimidated of him and to never wish he was anyone he isn??™t. She calls the whites ???fools??? for blaming ???the ones who look different??? instead of being able to take responsibilities for their own actions. She tells Tayo that the whites fear change which is why they don??™t approve of people with different eyes and different skin colors. Tayo starts to realize that his heritage is not a problem and that he must accept who he is because he can??™t change his own blood. He begins to understand what Night Swan has said and how the white people blame the Native Americans for their own troubles because they refuse to accept that they have done anything wrong. Night Swan also shows Tayo that it is his background that makes him unique and different from others. ???I saw the color of your eyes??? (99). She lets Tayo know that she loves his eyes despite the fact the he was teased as a child for his differences. It was his eyes that attracted Night Swan to him which he wouldn??™t have if it weren??™t for his mixed blood. She lets him know that there is nothing wrong with being who he is and that there are always advantages to being different such as his beautiful eyes.
Betonie is the local medicine man who teaches Tayo that his mixed heritage does not make him any less of a man. He can relate to Tayo??™s background because Betonie is a mixed blood Navajo. One way Betonie shows that being a ???half-breed??? doesn??™t make anyone less than a human is when he explains to Tayo that all men, not just the whites, are equal because of the evil they contain and the destruction of lives that they are part of. He believes that no matter what a person is ethnically, they are all equal due to the negative impacts they have on one another. ???We can because we invented white people; it was Indian witchery that made white people in the first place??? (132). Betonie shows Tayo that any problem a white men causes, is also a problem that an Indian man causes because it was the Native Americans who had created the whites. The medicine man is trying to teach Tayo that we are all responsible for our own actions and that by creating the white people we must all realize that everyone causes problems no matter who you are. He helps Tayo accept himself not by telling him that he is better than others for his background but that he is equal due to the issues that everyone has. He shows Tayo that his Native American and white blood doesn??™t make him different because he has the blood of humans which all relate to one another and makes everyone equal.
Ts??™eh is a woman in Tayo??™s life that creates an immense amount of emotional support and comfort for Tayo throughout his struggles of post-war drama. She helps Tayo deal with his identity as a half-breed by showing him love and her own acceptance. Ts??™eh physically helps Tayo accept himself by expressing her love to him and helping him understand that since his heritage doesn??™t bother her, it shouldn??™t bother him. ???But he did not get lost, and he smiled at her as she held his hips and pulled him closer??? (181). Tayo realizes that Ts??™eh doesn??™t care about his mixed heritage and can fully accept him as one person. Tayo knows this because of the love and care she shows him despite his heritage. She doesn??™t view him as white, or Native American but as a person that she deeply cares for and does a great job of ensuring that he understands this. Ts??™eh also expresses her acceptance for Tayo and everyone of mixed color when she discusses the color of the plant. ???This isn??™t for color??™, she said. It??™s for light??? (227). Ts??™eh is telling Tayo that she doesn??™t care what the color of the plant is, but what light it has inside of it. She only cares about the good and kindness that Tayo is able to express despite recovering from a war that had an enormous mental toll on him. Tayo felt loved and appreciated while he was able to enjoy the company of Ts??™eh. ???-He knew why he had lost the feeling Ts??™eh had given him??? (243). Ts??™eh??™s love for Tayo had reached him and shown him that without her he begins to miss that feeling of being accepted in a relationship. Silko uses Ts??™eh to show Tayo??™s feeling of being accepted as a half-breed, which is exactly what she provides for him through their relationship.
Silko sends a message to all of her readers that what??™s inside matters more than their background or heritage. She uses Tayo??™s encounters with Betonie, Night Swan and Ts??™eh to explain various ways of how someone??™s heritage can only go as far as they allow it to. Silko shows how Night Swan believes that being mixed can create a stronger person and that others are wrong for making fun of people with mixed blood. Betonie uses the concept of how everyone is responsible for each other so that we are all equally responsible for the mistakes in the world. Ts??™eh shows Tayo how to deal with his background by giving him an emotional relationship that lets him know he is loved and can live a healthy social life whether he is a mixed or single race. Tayo can accept himself with the help of his friends who show him they all love him for who he is, not what he is.