There is a widespread belief that the culture and religious implications change according to history, and often old traditions may be forgotten. Even though time changes, the cultural traditions and religious ideas of ancestors should be respected. In the work called “The Man to Send Rain Clouds,” Silko highlights the essential role of spiritual heritage. Thus, in this short story, the author uses symbolism as a helpful tool to depict the spiritual bonds between different generations and the respectful attitude of the youth towards the Indian burial traditions.
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Cultural knowledge is passed down from generation to generation in the Pueblo society. Leon, his brother-in-law Ken, Teresa, and Louise are much younger than recently passed away Teofilo. By keeping their beliefs in spiritual practice, the younger generation learns to appreciate and revere the traditions of their elders as part of their culture. Leon and Ken respect their grandparents’ traditions and Teofilo’s heritage by performing traditional funeral rites such as face painting, feather tying, cornmeal, and pollen tossing. Many citizens are involved in the arrangements for Teofilo’s funeral. Louise supplies the ceremonial pollen and cornmeal, while Ken provides the blanket. Louise and Teresa both bring drinks and food to please the masses and energize them. Teofilo’s body is dressed in sacred ritual attire by Leon and Ken. The historical rituals of the heritage are preserved via the participation of close relatives and the general community in the action of cultural traditions.
Adolescence may be a difficult period for youngsters and those who, directly or indirectly, share their path. In a fast-paced society where teenagers seek to adhere to their youth or popular movements, they may get overwhelmed and bewildered by all that is constantly happening in their social setting. Adolescents utilize youth or popular culture to understand themselves, their role in this culture, and other adolescents in their social surroundings. Widespread cultural and religious movements influence adolescent identity and spiritual development. Thus, the fact that Father Paul is responsible for the Indian region and Louise’s commitment to Christianity means that the Christian government is established in the country.
However, even though the priest, Leon, Ken, and other characters live in the Catholic country, they respect the Indian traditions of their ancestors and bury Teofilo following the ancient rituals. The author of the story uses symbolism in expressing Leon’s respect for the Teofilo life traditions. For example, while preparing Teofilo’s body for the funeral, Ken and Leon painted several stripes of different colors on the man’s face. Particular stripes and colors symbolize the affiliation of the dead person to the specific unity and will help him during the afterlife journey to find relatives and loved friends.
The author also includes the symbolism in Leon’s utterance, “send us rain clouds, grandfather” (Silko 2). This phrase leads to the Indian belief that the dead people are getting back to the Earth as rain to unite with those who continue to live. The dead people desire to moisturize the soil and help their descendants to have a better harvest. Through this tradition and Leon’s phrase, the author highlights the deep spiritual bonds with ancestors’ rites in the characters’ lives. Silko also uses this symbolic description to express the implicit idea about the necessity to accept the changing tendencies and beliefs, remembering the traditions inherent to the ancestors.
Another symbol that the author uses to depict the bonds between the Teofilo and his descendants is the burial ritual procedure. Providing the corns and water as nourishment for the dead shows that the Pueblo believe that death is just a beginning and that everyone will be united someday. Moreover, the fact that Leon and Louise ask the priest to use the holy water during the ritual procedure symbolizes the integration of the generations. Characters accept the changing nature of life and follow the established in the county religious beliefs. However, they will never forget the traditions and rituals their ancestors were committed to. Sprinkling the holy water over the Teofilo’s body, Father Paul symbolizes the unity of history and all the generations. Even though, at first, the native Americans did not accept and respect priests, his essential role in providing water for the dead on the way to the afterlife shows that the Christianity and Indian traditions were merged.
Therefore, the Silkos’ short story addresses the topics of different generations’ traditions, religion, and spiritual bonds. To express the ideas implicitly, the author uses symbolism in describing the Indian burial rituals. The symbolism is also depicted in the speech and the behavior of the characters. People are an essential part of the story’s setting because they are what the Pueblo civilization values the most. The characters of the story express their love for their ancestors by taking a distinct role in the traditional Pueblo burial ritual. Thus, the younger generation learns to understand and cherish their elders’ traditions as part of their culture by preserving their beliefs in spiritual practice.
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Silko, Lesie. The Man to Send Rain Clouds. Edited by Kenneth Rosen, Penguin, 1992.