Ceremony is the story of a young man, Tayo, who has been ostracized from society since a very young age. Ceremony details profound trials and tribulations that Tayo encounters throughout his life. .
Tayo was born an illegitimate, half-breed Native American. Later in his life, he would understand "what it was about white men and Indian women; the disgrace of Indian woman that went with them" (57). At a very young age, Tayo's mother sent him to live with her sister and her family on the Laguna Pueblo reservation. Soon after he moved in, Tayo's mother died. Tayo grew up on the reservation and lived with Auntie, her husband, Robert, and their young son, Rocky. Tayo's grandmother and his other uncle, Josiah, lived on the reservation also. .
Although Auntie raised Tayo, she made it well known that he was not her real son; Rocky was her pride and joy. As Silko explains, "When she was alone with the boys, she kept Rocky close to her . . . She was careful that Rocky did not share . . . things with Tayo, that they kept a distance between themselves and him. She wanted [Tayo] close enough to feel excluded, to be aware of the distance between them. The two little boys accepted the distance, but Rocky was never cruel to Tayo" (67). .
It was Uncle Josiah who took Tayo under his wing. Tayo grew to love and admire him in much the same way he would have respected a father. Tayo helped Josiah out around the reservation, and when Josiah purchased some Mexican cattle, Tayo promised to help raise them. While Tayo was busy around the house, his cousin Rocky led quite a different lifestyle. "Rocky was an A-student and all-state in football and track" (51). He was a typical All-American boy, who listened to his teachers and coaches when they told him, "Nothing can stop you now except one thing: don't let the people back home hold you back" (51). Rocky understood what had to be done to win in the white outside world. And Auntie was proud of him; she wanted him to be a success.