Conformity through Christianity
The story “The Man to Send the Rain Clouds” by Leslie Marmon Silko illustrates a miserable fate of an old shepherd, Teofilo, who faces death while doing his job. The author examines the theme of life and death through the portrayal of the Indian reservation within Christian world and spiritual traditions concerning their native rites. The plot introduces a cultural division between the Native American characters and the image of Father Paul who believes in the necessity of Christian rituals. Thus, the theme of the story refers to the life associated with the image of rain as the primary element of the plot and death illustrated via the Indian rites being the main symbol of the old traditions.
Life based on Christian religious views is presented by the priest as a man who followed his life principles before and during the funeral. Observing the plot and the actions of the protagonists, Leon and Ken, the reader might realize that they perceive the meaning of life and death via a particular approach based on the traditions of Native Americans. They concentrate on the meaningful image of rain and envision life while asking, “Send us rainclouds, Grandfather” (Silko 358). They know that their life might last longer thanks to the power of rain. Louise dares to hint that the Christian priest might conduct the Indian funeral ceremony that symbolizes the respect for their old native traditions. However, Father Paul knows that only God has enough power and strength to deliver the rain clouds for the living, despite the fact that people might be sinful and do not deserve His generosity.
According to the Indian beliefs, the death of the man is considered to be his transformation into rain or other phenomena. Indians consider it a gift as they long for rain as something inexplicable and powerful at the same time. The narrator focuses on “the exploration of death, loss, and renewal in Pueblo culture” to emphasize some particular differences between these notions (Barnett and Thorson 4). It is obvious that only the priest does not neglect beliefs and rituals as he pays much attention to the significance of the burial ceremony that is considered to be one of the most important symbols of religion. It means that the man perceives religion through the old customs of the ancient times including Catholic rituals as an integral part of Christians’ life. That is why the Father firstly refuses to deal with the Native American ceremony but questions, “Why didn’t you tell me he was dead? I could have brought the Last Rites anyway” (Silko 360). He just does not understand that people are different, and it is impossible to force his personal ideas into their mind. Undoubtedly, the priest supposes that it might be a Catholic burial instead of the Indian one that might give them a chance to finally see the rain.
In conclusion, the story “The Man to Send the Rain Clouds” by Silko presents the theme of life and death via imagery in the form of rain and Indian rites that symbolize their culture. Rain and Indian customs are everlasting symbols contributing to the conflict of the plot and gradually leading to its resolution. Undoubtedly, in contrast to Christian rituals, Native Americans just want to gain the rain but, on the other hand, they long for the accomplishment of their ancient traditions associated with the last respect to the dead man. Eventually, these vital elements depict the priest’s integrity, his service of Christianity, and Native Americans’ obedience to their heritage.
Barnett, Louise K., and James L. Thorson. Leslie Marmon Silko: A Collection of Critical Essays. UNM Press, 2001.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. “The Man to Send the Rain Clouds.” Nothing but The Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature, edited by John L. Purdy and James Ruppert, Prentice Hall, 2001, pp. 358-61.