Supplementary Discussion of Leslie Marmon Silko's "The Man To Send Rain Clouds"

  You are not assigned a specific question to answer in supplementary discussion, but feel free to use any of the question below or create your own. 

You are required to post to 5 supplementary discussions over the course of the semester. You can do more for extra credit, so long as you do it in the scheduled timeframe.

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 


2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?


3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?


4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?


5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?


6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?


7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?


8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?


9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?


10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?


11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?


12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?

13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?


  1. 11. Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

    Leslie Marmon Silko was born in 1948 to a family with Mexican, Native American, and European ancestry. She grew up on the Langua Pablo Reservation and had to deal with having "mixed blood". She is well known for writing about Native Americans as well as other topics that she feels strongly about. For example, in her first novel, Ceremony, she tackles depression and ptsd. She became one of the most influential Native American writers of her time.

    It makes sense that she would write this story and it follows the same theme of her other stories as she tries to promote Native American culture and the injustices they often have to face.


    1. I love how digging into the writer's background can give us a whole new layer of meaning to the piece. The story definitely feels personal.

  2. I think what makes “The Man to Send Rainclouds” so interesting and so compelling to me is the quiet way it handles modern colonialism without ever stating it outright. There’s such restraint in the telling of the Laguna Puebloan ceremony for the dead and the way in which the priest (unknowingly) is folded into the ceremony, as if the reader even is barred from being privy to the details of the ceremony. Given the Pueblos span parts of both Arizona and New Mexico, the idea of death being a rain bringer is especially telling. Death then becomes a form of renewal: with the death of an elder, there is life brought to and sustained in the Pueblos through rain. Bringing in then that modern element of a colonized world, and the way Ken and Leon dodge the priest’s prodding through lies of omission resonates, and hits upon this idea of this ceremony for the dead being this last, private part of the culture that the two do not want to be sullied with rites from a colonial religion. And when the two go to see the priest, we’re shown in part why they may be so wary: the priest—even if he does not admit it—holds deeply rooted prejudices against Indigenous Americans to the point where he thinks the death might be a “Indian Trick”.
    After Louise states her concern that Teofilo might get thirsty in the afterlife, Leon goes to the priest so he can sprinkle holy water on Teofilo’s body. The last line mentions that Leon was pleased with the priest doing so, because now Teofilo could bring them big thunderclouds. I think this returns to the idea of death, water and life being closely related. I think there’s also the question (for me at least) of if Leon sees the holy water as an amplifier of death’s rain bringing abilities. Is this how Christianity has been folded into Puebloan funerary ceremonies? Is burying the dead how it has been folded in? There’s such an interesting divide between the two cultures, but the closer you look, the blurrier the line gets.

    1. This is my favorite post today. Excellent analysis. I love how Silko is able to bring so much in to such a small, quiet story.

  3. I find the setting really interesting in this story. When I read it was set in the desert, my mind conjured up the typical images of heat waves from the hot sun, but instead this is set during winter, and you normally don't think about those two things at the same time, but I think that both winter and desert function in important ways within the narrative. I love the images of the desert, the arroyo and dusty town with a sandy cemetery They drive home one of the conflicts in the story, which is the need for water. The desert is often an archetypal stand-in for death for a good reason. The need for rain is so strong that it drives Leon to ask for the priest's help. Another symbol for death is winter, and in this case it think it stands in for Teofilo's death specifically. The winter is cold and scary, but it offers a glimmer of hope. Early in the story, it describes the snow-capped mountains. I find it significant that the character's look for hope in Teofilo's death, because he will now be able to bring them rain. Winter too has brought them promise of water. When it heats up, the snow will melt and provide the valley with the life-sustaining water. I find the story shares a nice sentiment about that, that it isn't something to fear, but can be a chance for renewal and happiness.

    -Logan Ostler

    1. Yes, good. The imagery of the story is so clear, and yet it isn't there just to be pretty--it functions in the story.

  4. I thought this story did an exceptional job of portraying the way religions sometimes merge. I took a class about this sort of thing last year, and I thought it was interesting to examine how indigenous religions sometimes adopt practices of another contemporary religion to suit their current-day needs. It's like the shamans in Siberia adopting aspects of Buddhism into their beliefs; it's not entirely accurate, but due to outside circumstances accommodations have had to be made.

    I especially liked how closed off the family is with the priest about the grandfather's death initially. I think it's worth noting that the priest isn't brought into the burial ceremony until it's on the family's terms. I think that's important because often religion gets forced on indigenous peoples, so I thought it was a really beautiful way to show this convergence of religious practices.


  5. 2. Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

    I feel that this story is considered one of the best is because it looks at how a different culture views the experience of death. People are bound to lose a loved one at one point in their lives, and in this story it was very interesting seeing how the characters react. In this story the characters seemed really calm and rational about the death of Teofilo, and efficiently went through their burial process.
    This story somewhat has themes of exploring two different cultures with Father Paul and Leon. Leon and his step brother hide Teofilo from Father Paul when they found Teofilo dead to possibly avoid the funeral becoming a catholic funeral. This can be applied to today where many people on reservations have lost the ability to practice some dances or rituals due to the government coming in or from cultural assimilation. This can not only be applied to the United States, but all over the world like Canada, Europe, and Asia. There are many languages that are dead, stories and songs have been lost, and traditions that are no longer practiced. From this story I feel like we as humans can use it to better understand those from other cultures and learn to respect them and what they do.

    1. Yes. And it manages to do this without seeming to preach at us, but simply letting us see this scene, and internalize it, and think about it.

  6. 10. Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?
    A. "We found him under a cottonwood tree in the big arroyo near sheep camp. I guess he sat down to rest in the shade and never got up again." Liked this line because it was I thought this was a realistic way for a family member to say that their grandfather passed away.
    B. "The priest walked toward the kitchen, and Leon stood with his cap in his hand, playing with the earflaps and examining the living room." I like this line because the playing with the earflaps while looking around the room when you are waiting for someone in their own place is a very subtle detail but it is a very real thing people do.
    C. "Leon smiled. It wasn't necessary father. The priest stared down at his scuffed brown loafers and the worn hem of cassock. For a Christian burial it was necessary." I love this exchange because it shows how different Leon and the priest see what is required for a burial as well as their different views on religion.


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