Introduction & Overview of Lullaby by Leslie Marmon Silko

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Lullaby Summary & Study Guide Description

Lullaby Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Leslie Marmon Silko is one of the most celebrated Native American writers of her generation. Her short story "Lullaby" first appeared in Storyteller (1981), a book in which she interweaves autobiographical reminiscences, short stories, poetry, photographs of her family (taken by her father) and traditional songs. The book as a whole is concerned with the oral tradition of storytelling in Native American culture. Through a variety of formats, Silko attempts to reproduce the effect of oral storytelling in a written English form. She is also concerned with the transformative power of storytelling in the lives of her characters and the role of storytelling in maintaining cultural traditions and intergenerational ties, particularly in a matrilinear line from grandmother to granddaughter.

"Lullaby" is one of the most noted pieces in Storyteller. It is told from the perspective of an old woman reminiscing about some of the most tragic events of her life, all of which seem to be precipitated by the intrusions of white authority figures into her home. She recalls being informed of the death of her son in war, the loss of her children taken by white doctors, and the exploitative treatment of her husband by the white rancher who employs him. Furthermore, these events seem to have led to a long-term alienation between the old woman and her husband. Yet she also recalls strong ties with her own grandmother and mother.

While much of the story is told in terms of these reminiscences, the present tense of the story finds the old woman searching for her husband at the local bar. The lullaby she sings to her husband at the end of the story, as he lies dying in the snow, brings the oral tradition full circle, as she recalls this song that her grandmother sang to her as a child. In addition to appearing in the Chicago Review and Yardbird Reader, "Lullaby" has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories of 1975, edited by Martha Foley.

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Short Stories for Students
Lullaby from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.