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Traditional Literature of the American Indians - Texts and Interpretations

5 pages
1114 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
Type of paper: 
Article review
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The story Talimleluheres and Rolling Head Loon Woman is a renowned literary work that was analyzed and published by Linda Ainsworth in the book Traditional Literature of the American Indians - Texts and Interpretations (1997). Additionally, the plot revolves around a small family of six, which constituted a father, mother, two boys, and two girls. Moreover, the plot depicts how a young girl, Talimleluheres, brings forth the destruction of her own family through her naivety on sexual matters, which were considered to be a taboo in the community. Furthermore, the onset of the familys destruction originates with the start of Talimleluheres menstruation, as well as her portrayal of incestuous tendencies towards her older brothers. Additionally, through the depiction of her sexuality, regardless of her innocence at the time, Talimleluheres makes the theme of the literary piece a tragedy. This is a critical review of the story based on Linda Ainsworths perspectives that portray how societal beliefs can impact the overall functioning of a traditional African homestead. Furthermore, the critical review illustrates the themes of taboo, sexual identity, gender imbalance and cultural desires and expectations as well as the impact of the tabooed attributes in influencing the behavior of people in a culturally-observant society.

Theme of Taboo

Taboo as a theme has been brought forth by two opposing sides of a societys expectations on the behavior of men and women in different periods of their life. For instance, in the story, Talimleluheres at first does not realize of the bodily and hormonal changes taking part in her life. As such, she continues to play with her younger brother by sitting on him and occasionally tickling him at night. Additionally, it is not until she receives her first menses does she realize that the expectations of the people around her have changed. Consequently, Talimleluheres finds herself under pressure to modify her behavior in order to conform to the new expected social convention. Additionally, in reading the narrative, it is evident that there is a number of universal cliches that revolve around the female body in the Wintu community. Furthermore, it is also apparent that there is a threat of social integrity in the community, which is manifested through the expression of a womans sexual desire. Subsequently, in order to suppress such attributes of female sexuality, the Wintu community has accepted certain natural occurrences like menstruation to be incestuous, which is wrong. Consequently, this has made women to conceal their sexuality in the community as a way of marking their conformity to the ideal sexual identity.

Sexual Identity

In the composition of the plot, sexual identity is also a primary theme that has largely been portrayed through Talimleluheres. Additionally, sexual identity characterizes the prolonged endurance behavior of a romantic attraction towards the opposite gender. In the composition of the plot, it is plausible to state that the Wintu society suppresses all the aspects of women that define their sexual identity. Moreover, the examples of such attributes of sexual identity featured in the composition include menstruation and enlargement of body tissues like the breasts. Talimleluheres is a key character that has illustrated the theme of sexual identity. Additionally, this is through her attraction to his younger brother, who is a person of a different gender. Furthermore, it is also evident that Talimleluheres is excited for receiving her monthly periods, despite menstruation being tabooed in her community. Nevertheless, the composition offers a very little description of the aspect of male sexuality in its composition.

Theme of Gender Imbalance

The theme explains a situation where men and women are treated unequally due to the variations in perceptions of individuals towards others based on their gender. In the plot of the narrative, it is evident that women are treated unfairly on matters of their sexuality compared to men. For instance, it is evident that female sexuality, which a key part of women identify is suppressed through equating females natural sexual occurrences like menstruation with a taboo and incest. Contrary, the men are not portrayed refrained from depicting their sexuality in the same society, which portrays a significant inequality in the treatment of women in the Wintu society.

Theme of Cultural Desires and Expectations

The plot of the narrative provides invaluable information pertaining the culture and expectations of the Wintu community. Additionally, this is portrayed through the lives of Talimleluheres and her other family members and the aspects of life and behavior required from them by the rest of their society members. For instance, in the composition, the different roles responsibilities of different gender have been showcased. Nevertheless, the womens role in the narrative is emphasized more compared to those of men. Furthermore, the story confines cultural information in such a way that provides meaning as to why a variety of cultural practices are undertaken. For instance, after Talimleluheres reaches puberty, she is forced to live in a menstrual hut as a cultural symbolism of her entry to womanhood. Also, the composition of the narrative explains the needs and desires that results in the development of various cultural practices in the Wintu society. For instance, the society members consider any affectionate attributes between members of the same homestead to be incestuous. Additionally, this explains why Talimleluheres siblings were opposed to her playful behavior towards her younger brother after she reached her menstrual period.

Ultimately, Ainsworth in her description of the composition illustrates how culture explains and justifies its most pressing concerns and questions. Additionally, this is respect to matters such as sexuality where the behaviors that are characterized as immoral are shunned away and repressed under the pressure of Wintu societys social convention. Also, according to the plot of the narrative, it is evident that members of the Wintu community long to fulfill their desires such as sexuality. However, due to the intense critic of reckless sexual conducts, the community members are forced to reinforce their abstinence attributes by honoring their socially-dictated cultural practices and expectations. Also, the theme of culture in reference to its practices and expectations has also been evidenced as a system of solving cultural problems that pose a dilemma. However, Ainsworth believes that despite the majority of society members being aware of the cultural expectations in providing solutions to prevailing ethical problems in their community, some of them consider some cultural norms as fraudulent. For instance, the cultural practices and expectations associated with menstruation and incest cannot fully control the desires of the society members in having intercourse. As such, it is plausible to state that cultural solutions and practices in the Wintu community provide partial solutions to the societys problems, which they seek to contain.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Kroeber, Karl. 1997. Traditional Literatures of the American Indian: Texts and Interpretations. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press.

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