In the novel, Silko explores the gender roles of four women and the significance to the development and actualization of Tayo’s character. These four women are Tayo’s birth mother, Auntie, old Grandma, and Ts’eh (a Montano). Because Tayo is of mixed ancestry, half white and half Native American, Tayo discovers he has a “natural” cultural flaw imposed upon him at birth, which would linger and expand into adulthood.
At four years old, Tayo’s birth mother left him with his Aunt and Grandmother so they could raise him as their own due to her alcohol addiction and vicarious life-style.
“He didn’t remember much: only that she (mother) had come after dark and wrapped him in a man’s coat – it smelled like a man – and that there were men in the car with them . . . he clung to her because when she left him, he knew she would be gone for a long time . . . there were tears all over his face and his nose was running (Silko 65-66).”
Nonetheless, Tayo’s sense of emptiness and abandonment began.
Auntie raised Tayo and was the mother figure he lacked. However, Auntie reluctantly accepted this responsibility because she could not bear to raise a child that brought the reservation shame by his mother’s mistake. On the other hand, Auntie willingly accepted Tayo to “conceal the shame of her younger sister (Ibid 29).” This contradiction, made Auntie hesitant toward Tayo as he was not her real son and was also a “half-breed.” For Tayo, this only added to his feeling of displacement and the feeling of being “invisible (Ibid 14).” Auntie would give her affection and attention to her natural son Rocky, and would intentionally make Tayo feel excluded.
“It was a private understanding between the two of them. When Josiah or old Grandma or Robert was there, the agreement was suspended, and she pretended to treat him the same as she treated Rocky, but they both knew it was only temporary (Ibid 66-67)....