Chapter 45

Mythological Themes in Native American Literature

This chapter introduces you to contemporary Native American fiction through a work by one of the most popular Indian writers, Leslie Marmon Silko.

But before you read the story, familiarize yourself with the historical and analytical material in the introduction. There you will find that literary works by Native Americans are not a new phenomenon and that their audience is broad. In addition to Silko, other well-known Native American writers include N. Scott Momaday, nila northSun, Gerald Vizenor, and Louise Erdrich. You might want to learn about them and read their work—especially because of their references to their tribes' mythologies.

Because Native American cultures continue to be found in our midst, their traditions are living and dynamic, and the writers experience the mythologies firsthand. Thus works by Indians give us a valuable inside view of how deeply traditional beliefs affect contemporary daily life.

All of this comes together in Silko's "Yellow Woman": storytelling, native customs and beliefs, negative influence of the outsider/intruder, and even tension among tribal groups. We see the characters as human, with all the complexity of that concept—neither totally good nor totally bad.

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