Lullaby is a sad story by Leslie Marmon Silko. As a Native American writer, she has picked up a story about an old native, Navajo woman, Ayah. The story explores about questions like; how are Navajos suffering? How are their culture and language acculturated? Why can’t they enjoy their free life in their own homeland?
The ‘Blanket’ is the symbolic representation about white’s hegemony over Navajo’s culture and language. Hegemony is 'the position of being the strongest and the most powerful therefore able to control others' (Advance Learner Dictionary). Blanket picturizes the suffering and struggle of the natives. Even though, Native Indians are in their own land, they are unable to enjoy freedom.
Ayah is the leading character of this story. Chato is her husband. Ayah’s life and her connection to the blanket explicitly shows the actual pathetic condition of Navajos in their homeland. They have to be homeless. They are forced to live in 'gray boxcar shack' (Silko 228).
At the second paragraph of the story Ayah is wearing 'the old army blanket over head like shawl' (225). The very blanket is from her dead son, Jimmie. He died far away in a war on the behalf of white people. She had lost her loving son for the foreigner’s sake. And, Jimmie name was given by whites in English instead of Yeibechei language; which stands for 'summer morning' (226). In the story, the native name of him is not given.
Silko contradictorily uses blanket (American one) to show the beautiful memories of Ayah, 'the blankets her mother made….rain rolled of them like bird’s feathers' (226). The memory comforts her in a way. Simultaneously blanket forcefully reminds her Jimmie’s death.
Another paradoxical use of the blanket done by Silko in the story is shown when Ayah’s two younger children, Ella and Danny were about to be taken away by white doctors. Both children were suspected of tuberculosis infection. So, she runs up to Mesa with her children and 'slept rolled up in the blanket Jimmie had sent her' (228). Ayah finds relief and safe in the place when she rolls herself in Jimmie’s blanket. White doctors took her children away next day. She was made to sign in a paper written in English. It was foreign and unknown script for Ayah. Danny and Ella were taken away and taught foreign language. This event portrays about white colonizers were ambitiously destroying Navajo culture and languages in the name of educating them.
Ayah seems to be unable to give up blanket. She carries it most of the time. After many years of Chatos’ service to white man in ranch. He could speak English and Spanish as whites did. He was sacked away from the work. He was now old enough and was unable to work anymore. They had to leave white rancher’s shack. But blanket still remains with Ayah even though they are thrown off. After Chato was taken out of his work. He becomes alcoholic. He still drives some of his sheep remembering large number of animals of ranch. Every month, after they get cheque from government (pension); Chato finishes all amount for alcohol. Ayah waits him in Ceboletta creek covering herself by the blanket. When her husband drinks in ‘Azzie’s Bar’ of Spanish man. She does not complain about his habit of finishing money. Instead she is happy because now she can return her home and can start normal life.
At the end of the story when all amount of cheque is done for alcohol, Ayah brings Chato back searching in the bar. Both of them sit in the edge of Cebolleta. It is their usual activity of sitting in that place whenever they come here. Chato is drunk and appears to be dying. The weather is cold and snowing. So, Ayah 'tucks the blanket around him' (231). At the end of story, she sings Yeibechei Lullaby near dying Chato. In this manner Silko uses ‘blanket’ as a motif from the beginning of the story to the end.
Silko reflects pain and suffering of Native American life and acculturation over Navajo culture and language by Whites in this story. Ayah and Chato are mouth pieces of Silko’s claim on white’s hegemony over Native Americans. 'She combined… relationship between beings and the natural elements… to show destruction of Native culture' (Encyclopedia Britannica). Silko perfectly coins her idea of 'learning their ways: it endangers you' (226) by this story.