Themes and message

Racial violence and oppression

The theme of the short story “Tony’s Story” by Leslie Marmon Silko is racial violence and oppression and their consequences. 

Towards the beginning of the story, the cop punches Leon without a reason. When one of the tribal policemen asks what is going on, “the big cop didn’t answer” (p. 176, l. 9). This suggests he does not feel accountable to anyone for his actions, and there is nothing to stop him from assaulting Native Americans. 

Tony feels helpless when he and his friend are targeted by such an attacker who, no matter the extent of his wrongdoings, has the law on his side: “With something like the cop it is better to forget, and I tried to make Leon understand. (…) ‘There’s nothing you can do.’ ” (p. 176, ll. 33-34). Tony’s words express the uselessness of trying to fight against people in a position of power who target others for no reason. At the beginning, Leon is the one who...

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