Living memory in Ceremony and The bone people
Thesis DisciplineAmerican Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Focusing on two novels, Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and Keri Hulme's the bone people, this thesis attends to the enduring power of stories, and the influence of personal and cultural memory on the lives of the main characters in both novels. This is a comparative study of the wisdom these two indigenous women writers share with their reading audience. It affirms the necessity of heeding their wisdom. Chapter One traces the presence of living indigenous memory and belief in the approach to writing taken by Silko and Hulme. It attends to the connections between land, memory and stories by drawing on published and unpublished interviews with both authors, and other Maori and Native American writers. Chapter Two focuses on Ceremony and the influence of personal and mythic memory on the protagonist Tayo. He comes to regard memory and love as constructive forces which balance evil and incoherence. This chapter also traces Tayo's experience of hospitalisation and compares it with Simon's experience in the bone people. Chapter Three crosses the ocean back to New Zealand and the bone people. Here, the focus shifts to the three main characters Simon, Joe and Kerewin, and their individual responses to personal and ancestral memory. Like Tayo, each of them comes to see that an open, constructive response to the past builds community in the present, potentially enriching the future. In Ceremony and the bone people the reader is invited to reflect on the varied consequences of remembrance. Both novels address the way memory shapes a process of healing. In doing so, they draw the reader into consideration of the interconnections between individual, communal and global healing, a fragile process encouraged by Silko and Hulme in their creative weaving of language and story.