HomeLiterature Study GuidesCeremonySection 10 Final Ceremony Summary

Ceremony | Study Guide

Leslie Marmon Silko

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Ceremony | Section 10 (Final Ceremony) | Summary



Running through the woods looking for somewhere to take cover, Tayo stumbles across the uranium pit where the first atomic bomb was tested. He looks at the patterns in the hollowed-out earth and begins to cry, realizing, "He was not crazy ... He had only seen and heard the world as it always was: no boundaries." Tayo realizes this site is the final stage of his ceremony. If he can survive the night, he will return to the elders and the ceremony will be complete. He lies in the hole for hours, until car headlights rouse him. Emo, Pinkie, and Leroy emerge from Pinkie's car in the distance. They kick down the old wooden watchman's hut and start a bonfire. Tayo wonders where Harley is, but he is too tired, hungry, cold, and weak to worry. Momentarily, Tayo wonders whether he was wrong about his friends; maybe they aren't destroyers. Maybe they actually want to help him. But before he can give this theory a second thought, the men pop open Pinkie's trunk and pull out a badly beaten Harley. Tayo scrambles closer to the men, clutching the screwdriver, but remains unseen. He is close enough now to hear their conversation as Emo berates Harley for losing Tayo, turning the rage he felt for Tayo against this new victim: "There was no way the destroyers could lose: either way they had a victim and a corpse." As Emo tortures Harley, skinning him alive, Tayo fights every urge to leap in and kill Emo. At one point he even stands up to stop them, but the wind blows hard, whipping up the bonfire. Tayo fumbles with the screwdriver and the moment to pounce is lost. He watches as Emo, Leroy, and Pinkie turn against each other, beating and abusing each other. Harley dies, and they throw his body back in the trunk. As they drive away, Tayo realizes that when he considered killing Emo, he had been moments away from completing the destructor's ceremony of death. By resisting the urge to kill, he saved himself and completed his own ceremony of new life. On the verge of collapse, Tayo stumbles back to the reservation where Ku'oosh and the other old men are waiting. He tells them the entire story, including his relationship with Ts'eh. They question whether Ts'eh is the embodiment of the reed god, and they all agree Tayo has been healed. The ceremony is complete.


The uranium pit is the perfect setting for the final stage of Tayo's ceremony. Uranium was mined from stolen Native American land to build atomic bombs, the ultimate weapon of destruction. White culture destroys the natural world in its pursuit of power, as seen in the polluted water, deserted fences, and hollowed-out earth at the uranium mine. The bomb itself, of course, has the power to annihilate entire cities. In Betonie's story about witches creating white men, he claimed the white race was created on a dare to see which witch could create the most destructive force. The witchcraft that created white men thus also created the atomic bomb, a weapon so great it has the potential to destroy the entire world. When Tayo sees this connection, he weeps, realizing that the old stories are just as relevant in the modern world. Time and stories have no boundaries.

Emo's torture of Harley is perhaps the most disturbing scene in the novel. Emo hates Tayo for being half white and wants to blame him for all the pain white culture has caused him, so when Harley fails to deliver Tayo to him, Emo turns his rage on his friend. Emo's turn against a fellow Native American highlights the effects of "witchcraft" in Native American communities. White destruction causes individuals to start thinking only of themselves, not of their community. White hunters, for example, care more about how many deer they can kill than in maintaining balance in the natural world. In the same way, Emo's anger becomes more important than unity within his friend group. Although Tayo would be justified in attacking Emo, he realizes that killing Emo serves his personal vendetta and would only add more evil energy to the world. He lets Emo live, restoring balance to the universe and breaking the drought. He returns home to share his stories with the community, and is deemed healed.

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