Leslie Silko’s “Lullaby” is a moving story written in first person from the point of view of the main character, Ayah. Ayah is a Navajo woman who lives with her husband, Chato. In the story, Ayah does not understand English, and fears the white men who yell and point at documents for her to sign. When Chato teaches her to sign her name, Ayah is very proud, but immediately regrets ever learning how when she signs away her children. Ayah is portrayed as a strong woman, and Chato a weak man in this narrative, and although Ayah hates her husband, she takes care of him until they die together, lying under a cold sky at peace. The central idea of the story is devotion; it is specifically, Ayah’s devotion to her children and to herself, and to Chato, whom she cares for despite her repulsion at her husband.
Silko’s Lullaby is a story that builds gradually with emotion, leaving the reader with a saddened sense of satisfaction. The plot is the sequence of events, which leads to the climax of the story, then brings the reader along the decrescendo following it. It follows the standard plot pattern, beginning with the introduction to our characters, Ayah and Chato, and revealing the conflicts to come.
There are many conflicts throughout the story, external conflicts involving Ayah and the white man, and internal conflicts with herself that Ayah struggles through. One internal conflict, which Ayah faces, is that of her guilt at signing papers she did not understand, “If Jimmie had been there he could have read those papers and explained to her what they said. Ayah would have known then, never to sign them.” (1012) The struggles with the white man and Ayah learning to sign her name start the crescendo to the climax, and the story peaks when Ayah runs from the doctors. The action then falls and evens out until the end when Ayah and Chato die together.
Silko develops her characters with startling clarity. Ayah is perhaps the most complex character...