Significance of Imagery in “Love Medicine” Essay

Significance of Imagery in “Love Medicine”

 

 

Louis Erdrich has been a proclaimed American writer belonging to the Turtle Mountain band of the Ojibwa (or Ojibwe) nation. All her novels revolve around small town Argus in eastern North Dakota. She vociferously makes use of imagery to reflect the social and cultural life of Native Americans in 1930. She crafted inner and outer struggle of Native Americans and the way they try to maintain their cultural heritage in the dominant white culture society of United States. Louis Erdrich uses imageries and symbols to bring to the surface various fictional layer hidden one beneath the other. “Erdrik’s work is full of such silken imagery: still lit candles flying by in Tornado winds, ironic Christian visions, visits from the other side…She is conscious of incorporating the elements of oral tradition, allegory and myth in her fiction.” (Quennet 93)

Stories are the collection of multiple voices, segregated episodes, minute landscapes, unusual characters, unresolved interests and in between these are inscribed the use of imageries to take readers into the depth of words she tries to convey. She herself says that she is in reality true to her characters, as she very well knows she is incapable to remove their pains.

Among several imageries reflecting the various aspects in the lives of the Americans, wild geese create a special impact, as they are symbol of love and empowerment among contemporary Native Americans. Wild Geese are a medium to bring the separated lovers closer and also unite the new lovers. It is love that brings happiness and change in the lives of several characters in her varied stories. Wild Geese had a special significance and played an intrinsic part in the lives of Native Americans.

In Chapter ‘Wild Geese’, Louis Erdrich beckons the call of nature to bring emotional upheavals and the thoughts in the lives of protagonists. With her tool of irony, she made Geese not just the symbol and a cause of love mating but also made it victim of Nector’s greediness. (Beidler & Barton, 274)

Much before Nector planned to marry Lulu, he was living with his mother and brother, hunting geese with Eli and selling them for spending money. This hunting passion of wild geese later became responsible for the development of wild love between Nector and Marie. Though the wild geese were dead and were being taken to sell in the market, yet these dead geese only became the cause of mating between Nector Kashpaw and Marie Lazarre and making their meeting the most weird and unforgettable event.

As it is rightly said by Kroeber, “The one thing left that makes life endurable is love. Life is tenuous; love is dangerous, and love potions risky”. (Kroeber, 1985). Love is truly a very fragile thing as no one can sense what would happen. On one hand, if love gives happiness then on the other hand, love can become dangerous too, and it is clear in the following words by Louis Erdrich herself,  “When she mentions them love medicines, I feel my back prickle at the danger. These love medicines are something of an old Chippewa specialty. No other tribe has got them down so well. But love medicine is not for the layman to handle. You don’t just go out and get one without praying for it. Before you get one, even, you should go through one hell of a lot of mental consideration”. (23)

So the Wild Geese represent as a healing succor to torment lover whereas on the other hand became dangerous too.

Nector who was in love with Lulu Nanapush left her and instead married Marie. He was walking towards Sacred Heart Convent to sell the two geese, which were dangling from either wrist and tied with leather bands, and was thinking about Lulu whom he was expecting to meet in the bush that night. He was so deeply engrossed in her thoughts that he did not notice Marie who was rushing down from the convent at the top of hill and tumbled upon him. Nector saw something hidden under her arm and he thought that she had stolen them from the nuns so he caught her. They struggled with each other and Nector fell down holding heavy geese in his arms. When she angrily faced him and wanted to punch him, Nector knocked her down, and pressed her under his weight. She got angry at first instance, but soon after she gave a hearty laugh. First Nector did not realize but later a feeling aroused in him that he had fallen over the woman and not a girl. “Her breasts graze my chest, soft and pointed. I cannot help but lower myself the slightest bit to feel them better. And then I am caught. I give way. I cannot help myself, because, to my everlasting wonder, Marie is all tight plush acceptance, graceful movements, little jabs that lead me underneath her skirt.” (Erdrich, 60-61)
This incident was beginning of a relationship between Nector and Marie Lazarre. Though Nector loved Lulu yet this incident changed his mind and he got attracted towards Marie. Speaking about Oshkikwe’s mythical turkeys, Nector gave Marie the wild geese as a gift, held her by hand and did not allow her to go. Still Nector could not forget Lulu and years later tried to renew the relationship with her.

These wild geese again became the source of resurrection between him and Marie and the man who was responsible for their union and realization was their grandson, Lipsha. He wanted to lessen the rift between their grandparents and heal their relationship. Lipsha believed that eating the heart of goose would bridge the gap of these separations, which had been created between Nector and Marie due Nector’s affair with Lulu. Both Marie and Lipsha came to know that Nector was trying to reestablish his relationship with Lulu as they independently had seen them together in the laundry room. Looking at the depth of the anger of his Grandma at Grandpa’s chasing and adulterous pursuit of Lulu Lamartine: “I thought love got easier over the years” (Erdrich 107), Lipsha felt that Nector and Marie should eat the hearts of a pair of geese as wild geese are thought to mate for life in their tradition. But when he found that hunting for the wild geese had become more difficult for him, he decided to buy frozen Turkeys from the grocery store in place of geese to prepare Love medicine.

In order to assure himself that the heart of the geese works, Lipsha first took the Turkey hearts to church to get it sacrosanct by the Father, who in turn told him to visit Sister Marine, but Lipsha was afraid that Sister’s blessings wouldn’t be as powerful as Father’s. He was also feeling hesitant to tell her his real motives behind the love medicine, because he was afraid that she would refuse it on the pretext that Lipsha would use the hearts as love medicine for himself. But Nun did give him advice before he went forward to perform the role of a priest.

“One of the key points…is realizing that your own wisdom as a human being is not separate from the power of things as they are. They are both reflections of the unconditioned wisdom of the cosmic mirror. Therefore there is no fundamental separation or duality between you and your world. When you experience those two things together, as one, so to speak, then you have access to tremendous vision and power in this world- you find that they are inherently connected to your own vision to your own being” (103).

This is quite true if we look at wild geese. We are bonded with the nature, not separated from it and have no independent identity. This independent and dependence give us strong vision and power to perceive the nature as we want and for our fulfillment. This gives us satisfaction and love.

Goose became insignia of the mixed traditions and the influence of Catholicism among Chippewas, and showed how new systems and beliefs are cultivating the lives of Natives. Grandma ate heart raw and prepared Grandpa too to have it. Grandma coaxed him to swallow the heart, but unfortunately as soon Grandpa swallowed the heart, he was choked to death.

Though Nector died, but Lipsha’s medicine had borne fruit as Marie felt Nector’s ghost near him showering his love for her. Marie was so overwhelmed by the thought of this re-union of their souls that she even passed her rosary beads to Lipsha, which had remained with her all through the life. Now she no longer needed the beads as she already had found her love.

In this scene, Wild Geese not only became an important archaic of love but also replicated Native American’s complexities in the adoption of their own Chippewa tradition and Catholic spiritualism.

Imagery is as important for Fredrick as her role for society’s values. She is a writer of modern genre and her expressions are felt in the vintage of several imageries. In Love medicine, Erdrich gave a realistic account of the lives of four Native American families, the Kashpaws, the Lamartines, the Pillagers, and the Morrisseys, and all the members were spending their lives confined in their own culture. Her imageries on one hand reflected the struggle of the Native Indians to identify their roots amidst the Christian world where as on the other hand presented the way they still connect themselves with their land, their family, their relationship with their other family members etc.

Imageries too used are the mixture of their traditional as well as western culture. Wild Geese was a price of loveable possession for the hunters as well as a symbol of their faith of love relationship.

Native Americans are closely associated with nature and it is to the nature that they depend themselves for their survival. All their needs are fulfilled through nature and by having a feeling of close association with nature gives them fulfillment. Erdrich knew it very well, as her maximum imageries are associated with nature, as image of Windigo spirit in  “Saint Marie” and Wild Geese in “Wild Geese” in her enduring collection of stories in “Love Medicine”. Wild Geese were the source of income for Nector and Windigo spirit is a giant made of ice.

Mother of Erdrich was Rita Joanne Gourneau, who was half Native American, belonging to Ojibwa tribe, and half French on account of her birth and Rita’s father was a tribal chairperson and Erdrich’s father, Ralph Louis Erdrich, belonged to Germany. Naturally her mixed blood always made her feel struggling to fight for her identity and this struggle in her willfully became reality in her stories in Love Medicine though independent yet structurally correlated.

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WORKS CITED

Beidler, Peter G. ; Barton, Gay. “A Reader’s Guide to the Novels of Louise Erdrich” University of Missouri Press, 2006

 

Erdrich, Louise. “Love Medicine.” American Mosaic. Ed. Sandra Mano and Ed. Roche Rico. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

 

Kroeber, Karl. “STUDIES IN AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES” Available: http://oncampus.richmond.edu/faculty/ASAIL/SAILns/91.html, April 17, 2008

 

Quennet, Fabienne C. Where “Indians” Fear to Tread?: A Postmodern Reading of Louise Erdrich’s … NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001.

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Wong, Hertha D. Sweet. 2000. Narrative Communities and the Short Story Cycle. (Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine: A Casebook) Oxford: UP.

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