Term Paper: American Literature Which Can Be Viewed

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¶ … American literature which can be viewed as groundbreaking for the era they were created as well as for the subjects they dealt with. The 70s and the 80s represented a very important period in the history of the United States because it reflected the struggle of the American people for acceptance. There are in this case particular works which portray very well the struggles of the Americans, regardless of their nationality, for being accepted in the society and for maintaining the cultural identity and creed.

Among others, there are three which may catch the attentions. These are "Bless me, Ultima" by Rodolfo Anaya, "Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko, and Jimmy Santiago Baca with "A place to stand."

Each of these texts suggests a particular aspect of the challenges involved in cross culture communication. The fact that the authors regardless of the nature of the writing, try to convey to their readers the actual feelings and emotions which are difficult still to pass over a certain barrier, that of culture represents the entire endeavor of the writer.

In order to better understand the actual way in which each author in its turn tried to convey cultural messages through his/her writing, it is important to consider the element which places them together. Better said, the cultural challenge, the desire to offer information about one's culture represents the connecting point between the three books.

"Bless me, Ultima" by Rodolfo Anaya represents a truly important book largely because it presents an overall autobiography. Anaya stated in one interview that "Bless Me, Ultima is auto-biographical in the sense that I use my hometown, the Pecos River, Highway 66, the church, the school, the little villages and ranches around the town. My parents were very much like Antonio's parents. My mother grew up in a farming family in Porta de Luna. My father grew up on the llano as a vaquero, as a cowboy, so as a child, I saw the tensions that a conflicting way of life created" (National Endowment for the Arts, 2010).

Rudolpho Anaya led a very troubled life both as a child and as an adult. What is more important though is the fact that he tried in the book to underline the need for communication and for story telling in terms of cultural messages to be sent across generations. Better said, the "Bless me, Ultima" is one such story because it portrays the environment of his life growing up, which was in the 40s and the 50s, as well as his experiences as an adult. It is rather clear that the author was particularly influenced by his subsequent experiences and that his judgment played an important role in dictating the plot. This is largely visible from the simple presence of Ultima who in real life is a sort of healer. However, in the book, Ultima was at the border with witchcraft and with evil experiences.

The presence of Ultima in the novel is crucial because it can be interpreted as being the actual symbol of mysticism and hidden things. This in turn provides a hint to issues related to culture, to the mystical aspects of cultures. Therefore, as stated by the author himself, "In Bless Me, Ultima, I took that very real world of women who are healers, or curanderas, but I moved it a little bit into witchcraft to set up the conflict between good and evil" (National Endowment for the arts, 2010).

A second book which tries to convey the differences between cultures and peoples is "Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko. The book represents the story of a Native American as he tries to reconcile with his own past, with the events which marked his present and the potential of his future. The story in itself is filled with recollections, with secrets from a different culture (that of the natives) and with struggles to overcome the atrocities he had experiences in the Second World War.

The actual plot however is relatively simple. The author did not try to write an action story or even a personal one. The main goal of the writing was to express the inner feelings of a man, a native American, who came back from the war and faced a totally different environment. However, it was not the environment that changed that much, but rather it was him who felt as if he did not fit it anymore. From this point-of-view, the story, as simple in action, is as complex in ideas.

The title of the book is full of significance. The ceremony announced in facts describes the way in which native Americans get in touch with their ancestors, with their history, and past. Ceremonies represent a very important part in the history of a community. They are the linkage between the old and the new, between past generations and the generations to come. As the author states in the book, "Ceremony

I will tell you something about stories, [he said] They aren't just for entertainment.

Don't be fooled They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.

You don't have anything if you don't have the stories" (Silko, 1977, p2).

By comparison to other cultures, even to the European one, the Native American culture, considered as a single entity despite the fact that its specificities clearly sets every individual apart, greatly relies on oral culture and on the way in which traditions are transmitted from generation to generation. Therefore, the main character of the book identifies himself with his culture and heritage through these types of ceremonies, which constantly remind of the extraordinary historical background of the community and of the tribe. It is through this link that the individual feels the sense of belonging. As opposed to the European culture, where oral history was used mostly up to the middle ages, the Native Americans, given the limited resources on the one hand, and the tradition on the other, rely heavily on the spoken word. This is a crucial element in the culture of the tribe, and ceremonies bring these words and practices together and remind the members of their place in the universe and in the community.

The strongest message the book is trying to convey is the power tradition can have over the individual and over the community. It provides shelter and a sense of belonging. At the same time however, it offers unity as ceremonies are moments in which everybody comes together to celebrate. This is an important aspect especially in the light of the constant challenges facing the Pueblo. However, through these symbolic ceremonial practices, the dangers do not affect the community or the tribe.

Finally, another important message sent by the book is the need to protect the unity of the tribe, in the face of civilization, white people, and Anglo Americans. However, the challenges facing traditions, especially in terms of the life in reservations, must be met with consideration. Therefore the book suggests that the best way to transmit the cultural heritage of the tribe in the modern world is to adapt to the conditions of the time without losing the identity and cultural spirituality of the community.

The third book represents more a statement. Jimmy Santiago Baca and "A place to stand" is considered to be a truly powerful voice for all those who were misjudged, misrepresented, or misunderstood. Given his background as a former imprisoned man, Baca considers it to be his duty to overcome severe shortcomings and to speak out in the name of justice, whether it is social, political, or economic justice. The book is a mere wording of these thoughts.

"A place to stand" is, unlike the other books presented, an auto biography. The way in which the narration is made reveals a very personal piece of work. The action takes place in New Mexico and the accounts of the place reveal the color of the emotions that ran passed the soul of Baca from early childhood up to adulthood. An important passage to reveal this aspect is the one in which he points out precisely the reasons for his incarceration and the social aspects of it. More precisely, "the last time I was in prison was five years ago. It was serious time in a serious palce -- Florence, a maximum security state prison in Arizona. I landed there as I had landed in the others, by being a poor kid with too much anger and the wrong skin color" (Baca, 2001, p3). In this sense, he clearly points out the most important elements which defined his Mexican origin: poverty, anger, and skin color. These aspects revealed his problems with the society, his issues, and his manifestations.

The experiences from the prison time, according to the book, changed the author dramatically. Firstly, it transformed him into a poet. They taught his the need to survive, to improve himself in order to achieve a higher goal in life. From this point-of-view, prison time came… [END OF PREVIEW]

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