i Critical and Resisting Attitudes to the Assimilation Project and the Church In Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Alexie’s Reservation Blues Written By Wahyu Seno Aji [email protected] com abstract In this paper, I talk about two Native American Novels. (written by Native American and about native American life in the reservation). My paper will show how white’s religion or the church is seen differently by the Native American characters in Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Alexie’s Reservation Blues .
This kind of seeing reflects the critical and resisting attitude toward white culture, especially toward the implementation of white religion in Indian community as part of assimilation project. I read the two novels with a historical background to show the attitude or the tone. Keywords: Native American novel. History. Critical attitude/tone. Assimilation project. Church institution. Introduction According to VanSpanckeren (111), in the history of American Literature, Love Medicine belongs to the New Regionalism.
This is a kind of literary work that portrays a specific community, a literary tradition that long has been appeared in the history of American Literature. Kate Chopin, Mark Twain, and Faulkner are some examples from this tradition. Reservation Blues too, is easily recognized as portraying a specific community. Both Love Medicine and Reservation Blues portray the live of Native American or Indian community in their own reservation. The techniques in both novels have also already appeared in the previous American literature, for example the non-linear plot development can also be found in Faulkner’s work.
The technique of using different point of view/ different speakers too, has been a common practice. The interesting part from the two novels that can probably be said as giving a new contribution to the previous regionalism, and therefore becomes a distinctive feature, is in their technique of mixing the mythical / non realistic/ dream-like features with the realistic features. Regionalism usually takes a realistic form. As largely found in realistic novel, its mode of expression tends to be consistent through the whole novel. And its portrayal tends to confirm the real experience.
For example, an uncommon event in the real life will also be uncommon for the character in the literary work. Even in a horror/ gothic/ supra natural story, its horrific/ supra-naturalistic feature is also conditioned by experience in the real life (for example a ghost is also scary in the real life). If the work has a dream-like/ non-realistic mode of expression, then the large part of the details (event, character, and plot) are consistently unrealistic. In both of these novels, the realistic and non-realistic parts are blended.
Some parts of this (mythical) feature probably come from the very fact that Indian societies see ‘reality’ differently. Their attitude and reaction toward western religion therefore could be very different from the common white’s attitude and reaction. My paper will only show how white’s religion or the church is seen differently, and how this kind of seeing can be considered as a critical and resisting attitude toward white culture, especially toward the implementation of white religion in Indian community as part of assimilation project. Literary Work and Its relation to reality
The practice of relating literary work to reality is a common practice. Many literary devices and approaches indicate that knowledge on the real or ‘outside’ reality is helpful. A symbol may relate the work to something general or specific which is not directly stated in the work. An Allusion may build a reference to something specific in ‘real event’ or other ‘literary work’ or book already written. Historical approach sees literature as footnote of history, a documentation of history. There is also a new historicism, which sees history as subjective testimony.
There are many versions of history, they compete each other in telling ‘the truth’,. In this light, a literary work can disagree or question the truth that ‘history’ has told. Also the concept of Intertextuality, indicates that any text cannot be read solely without the awareness of something ‘written’ before, for example a previous knowledge on the reader’s mind. Here basically, I read the novels and connect them to the history of assimilation project for the Native American. My scope of discussion is on the attitude or the tone of the novels concerning the church.
So history is used as a background for talking about the tone/ the attitude of these novels. The cultural content in these novels is obvious, so I read them directly without further discussion on literary approach and literary devices. The Historical Conflict in Assimilation Project (and its trace in the novels) The following description serves to give a background to the nowadays Indian conservation. Some details will be for showing how Indians become less free and oppressed (until the novel’s ‘nowadays’), some other will be for showing white men’s stereotype on Indians. According to Current et. ll, in American History, A survey, (1965: 479-83), Indians used to have a nomadic life, moving from one plain to the other plains. The magnet that drew the Indians and guided their routes on the wide plains was the buffalo, or bison (479). Current said that they always moved into an area where the buffaloes went. The novel, Reservation Blues, questions this opinion through a dialogue between. father Arnold and an Indian. Father Arnold says,” What about the buffalo? I mean, Indians were always hunting buffalo on television. ” The Indian replays,” It was those dang Sioux Indians. Those Sioux always get to be on television.
They get everything”. (Reservation Blues, p. 36. ). Some Indian tribes actually looks for salmon/ follows the river Current (ibid) explains further, “When the miners and cowmen sifted into the last frontier (in the early of 1830s), they came face to face with Indian inhabitants. And they had to advance against more determined and sustained resistance than whites had met anywhere else in the sweep across the continent” (ibid, 497). (note, this source, which is American History, a Survey, sees the Indians as a kind of resistance/impediment in white’s mining project, including building the railroad).
Another statement from this historical book could indicate that Indians were generally put on a wrong side (foe), a scary foe for white people. The book notes, “ The plains Indians were almost uniformly martial, proud, and aggressive. Mounted on their horses, they were a formidable foe.. ” (ibid, 480). The sub-title that describes Indian, too, indicates Indian’s savagery and it definitely portrays Indians as the other, as an impediment in American project (whatever it is). The sub-title is ‘ The Taming of the Tribes’ In the end, the invaders triumphed. Indians become ‘wards of the Great White Fathers in Washington.
The administration of Indian matters is handled by the Army and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). BIA supervises the disposition of the Indian land, disburse annuities, and distributes supply. It is historically noted that government agents are largely dishonest and incompetent. The Army is for securing the situation, for making sure that the government ‘s program (in Indian matters) fulfilled, because there were indeed many times when Indian rebels. Of course they are then slaughtered (481) “The Army principal function was to punish, and not to police” (480). The characters in the novels are fully aware of some historical genocides.
For example, in Reservation Blues, Thomas mentions the Wounded Knee Massacre and something about Ghost Dancers for his reason of not believing in Christian God (167-8). Historically it happened in 1890. Current writes: A final tragic encounter in1890 was hardly a battle. As the Indian saw their culture and their glories fading, they turned to an emotional religion which emphasized the coming of a Messiah and featured “ghost dances”, trances, and visions. Agent on the Sioux reservation, fearing the frenzy might turn into an outbreak, called for troops, and some of the Indians fled to the Badlands.
They were pursued and slaughtered at a creek called…. Wounded Knee. (Current, 1965: 483) In Love Medicine, Lulu is right when she says that the whites are good at doing statistic /counting numbers, especially in dealing with Indians’ destruction. Historian probably will agree with Lulu’s opinion. Current mentions (480) that one official ever estimated that during the wars in the sixties, the business of surprising Indian were very expensive. It costs government $100, 000, 000. The cost per Indian killed was $1,000,000.
Under this statistic, killing Indians is largely seen from economical perspective/ economic problem, rather than moral or ethical problem. Lulu doesn’t precisely talks about Indian killed in the war. She says about her disagreement in counting God’s creation in number, including the government’s census on Indian community, but her last words still have some historical truth, “ …every time they counted us, they knew the precise number to get rid of (282). During the whites and Indian wars or Indian’s rebellion in the 60s –80s, every time the Indians lose, they were forced to live in the specific area/ reservation.
After 1870, the various policies on the Indians began to be clear. An advisory civilian Board of Indian commissioners counseled the government to continue the reservation program and to break down the tribal structure with a view to assimilating the Indians to white culture. Congress responded in 1871 by abolishing the practice of treating the tribes as sovereignties, a step calculated to undermine the collective nature of Indian life. ( ibid, 482). In 1877 congress finally moved to destroy the tribal structure that was the cornerstone of Indian culture.
Although the motivation was partially a humanitarian impulse to help the Indian, the action was frankly designed to force him to become an individual land owner and farmer, to abandon his collective society and culture, to become, in short, a white man. Their communal land is then divided and given to the individuals by the government (Current, 1965, 483).. Part of the reason is, without being individualized, the government’s citizenship is not applicable. Of course, they cannot be a complete individual instantly, abandoning their communal culture entirely.
According to Current (1965, 484) the Indians were not ready for a change from collective society to individualism. Many of them resisted white ways, even until 1930’s. At that time, the government finally made a notable attempt to restore some of the institution of the tribal culture. The resistant and critical attitude to white culture is still going on. By showing / underlining the bad effect of assimilation or by portraying the contact with white culture in a ridiculous way, these two novels are continuing the tradition of Indian’s resistance. The discussion below will explore such attitude/quality.
Religion as part of assimilating tool and its counter-image in the Novel As has been said above, the government wants to make the Indians similar to whites people. One way to accomplish this goal is through religion. According to Wiget (. www. geortown. edu…), during the 1870, the Native Americans communities were allocated among the various major Christian sects. Missionary activity is partly for social and cultural transformation. The government hopes that Indian’s practices, behavior, and customs can be changed through Christian practice. Both of the novels show this idea.
For example, in Reservation Blues, The bishop reveals that he sees Indians as lost people, therefore father Arnold was sent to minister such people (267). The novels also show how the Indian community consciously or unconsciously resists this practice and attitude. Unholy image of the church In the novels, the church/ missionary’s involvement in the reservation is depicted as far from being holy. They share the fleshy lust. For example in Reservation Blues, A priest ever expressed his sexual passion by kissing an Indian boy (Victor’s childhood) (203). Father Arnold falls in love with an Indian woman, which is Checkers (163. In Love Medicine, sister Leopolda did physically harmful exorcise to Marie (57). Father Arnold makes love to Checkers in Checkers’ dreams. I think the using of dream, day dreaming and past-time remembrance can serve the novel’s critical and resistant purpose well. An event that probably will be too harsh or need a long preparation for the shake of coherence (foreshadow, background, exposition, etc) can be instantly incorporated to the main course of the story through dreaming. In the reality, father Arnold just does hugging, and kissing Checkers. Therefore Father Arnold ’s image can be darkened through Checkers’ dream.
The priest, who had sexually abused the child in the past, can be brought to the present moment through remembrance. (the old scene of Indian horses being slaughtered also presented in the same way ). Nun and priest are sometimes depicted as unknowledgeable persons. They don’t understand about the contemporary realities. Their knowledge on the popular happening is shaped by the television. Their behavior and their way of thinking are directed by Christian’s tradition. For example, father Arnold believes that he will find Buffalo in the Spokane Indian Reservation just because the TV does (36).
This makes the Indians laugh. As a catholic, father Arnold dislikes the Protestant. He says “Protestant are a good Catholic’s worst nightmare” (Reservation Blues, 250). In Love Medicine, the nuns believe that Marie has the stigmata. Therefore they appreciate Marie in a devotional manner. They do not realize about the fact that the stigmata is created by Leopolda. Here too, the critique becomes soft for it is largely seen from Indian/ Marie ‘s perspectives (so, the white can still defend their position by saying that it is a vision / view from a stupid Marie, though the other sister is no less stupidly funny).
At the end, It was as through my deepest dream had had come to life. The sisters of the convent were kneeling to me. .. they were down on their knees…My name was buzzing up and down the room, like a fat autumn fly lighting on the tips of their tongues between Latin, humming up the heavy blood-dark curtains, circling their little cosseted heads. (lme, 58)…. ‘I have told my sisters of your passion,” she managed to choke out. “ How the stigmata… appeared in your palm” …. after a moment, I understood. Leopolda had saved herself with her quick brain. She had witnessed a miracle.
She ha hid the fork and told this to the others. And of course, they believed them her, because they never knew how Satan came and went or where he took refuge. (59) A religion that tears Indian’s belief to confusions The novels also show how the intrusion of Christian’s belief in Indian life does not successfully replace all of the old customs including the Indians gods. The Indians are confused between the two kinds of God. But this confusion is depicted in a light-funny way, a confusion which does not really make them sacrifice themselves or sacrifice their interest for preferring the truest god.
Instead, they prefer their own interest/ business. Any gods will do. In Reservation Blues, Checkers using god for legitimating her love for Father Arnold (148-149). “ I think I fell in love…God made me stay home so I could meet Father Arnold”. In Love Medicine, Lipsha Morrissay, -after admitting that Indian’s gods still can hear and help Indians when they are properly asked,- tries to change the proper way of asking Indian’s gods for the shake of practicality. He changes the goose’s heart (for making love medicine) with the Turkey’s heart because he fails to shoot the goose in the natural area.
He gets the turkey’s heart in a shop. Before those characters decide what they want, they really think and get confused by the existence of the two kinds of gods. In Love Medicine, Lipsha says: Now there’s your god in the Old Testament and there is Chippewa Gods as well. Indian Gods, good and bad, like tricky Nanabozho…. Our Gods aren’t perfect… but at least they come around. They’ll do a favor if you ask them right. You don’t have too yell (just like Chess, checker, and Nector) But you have to know …how to ask in the right way (Love Medicine 236). While in Reservation Blues, Checkers says(204)
Big Mom felt like she came from a whole different part of God than Father Arnold is. Is that possible? Can God be broken into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle? …I looked at Big Mom and thought that God must be made up mostly of Indian and woman pieces. Then I looked at Father Arnold and thought that God must be made up of white and man pieces. I don’t know what’s true. (204) The Destructive images of the Church and the white’s early historical settlements There are some thoughts in the novels saying that white man religion has destroyed some of the Indian culture.
According to Lipsha, Indians are better before Catholicism came. Catholicism makes the Indians forget to ask the Indian’s gods in a proper way. Lipsha sees his grandfather (Nector) prays/ asks God in a loud voice (Chess and Checkers in Reservation Blues think the same). In Lipsha’s views, Indian’s way of asking God is not that way. While in Reservation Blues, Thomas remembers the destruction of Indian’s heritage by the church. Indians’ books and records were thrown to fire by the church’s officials/ priest. Lipsha and Thomas’s thoughts will be presented below:
That makes problems, because to ask proper was an art that was lost to Chippewas once the Catholics gained ground. Even now, I have to wonder if Higher Power turned it back, if we got to yell, or if we just don’t peak its language…. In those times, us, Indians was so much kindlier than now. (Love Medicine 236). The catholic/church officials think that Indians’ books and records are devils’ tools, therefore they should be burnt. Thomas experiences such events and therefore he dislikes the church and the priest. (146) These are the devil’s tools!
The white Catholic priest bellowed as his Indian flock threw books and records into the fire…Thomas! The priest bellowed again. Come forward and help us rid this reservation of the devil’s work! (146) At that time, Thomas held the book and run away In Reservation Blues, the experience (of being oppressed by white people) is extended to the old historical time through dreams and dreams-like situation. Big Mom’s dream-like experience of the slaughtered horses is a kind of metonymy for the whole slaughtered tribes. This also happens to Thomas and Junior in a more concrete picture.
Thomas closed his eyes and told Chess this story: “ We were both at Wounded Knee when the Ghost Dancers were slaughtered. We were slaughtered at Wounded Knee. I know there where whole different tribes there, no Spokanes or Flatheads, but we were somehow there. There was a part of every Indian bleeding in the snow. All those soldiers killed us in the name of God, enit? They shouted ‘Jesus Christ’ as they ran swords through our bellies. (167) I can see you running like shadow…just outside thee body of Indian woman who looks like you, until she was shot…. by white kid…He ate you both
The Narrator and Character’s Critical and resisting Attitudes to Christian’s ideals After experiencing some confusions and seeing a malpractice, some characters show their judgement on Christianity. Some opinions are in the serious manner, some others are in a light manner. In Reservation Blues, Thomas does not want to bow to the image of the pope. He also cannot mention Jesus’ name when praying. He says, “Can you feel the pain still, late at night, when you’re trying to sleep, when you’re praying to a God whose name was used to justify the slaughter…. 167) According to Thomas, Jesus allowed it (the Wounded Knee slaughtering) to happen because they killed the Indians in Jesus’ name. (168). Checkers, too, does not believe in the idea of Christian poverty because she needs money. According to her, only people who already have had money can say that money is not everything. Her dialogue with Father Arnold, though seemingly just comes without a deep thought, expresses the reality. “ There is a kind of Freedom in poverty,” That’s a lie, Checkers thought and felt worse for contradicting a priest… “ “Jesus didn’t have any money,” Father Arnold said. yeah, but Jesus could turn one loaf of bread into a few thousand. I can’t do that,” (Reservation Blues, p. 192) The Narrator too, through Chess and Checkers’s thought, undoubtedly shows his critical doubt to Catholic’s practice of praying/ discipline. I think he ridicules the repetition in Catholics prayer. “Chess and Checkers both understood but …suspicious. They’d grown up with priest and their churches. The sisters had loved to knell in the pew and prey…. For years, the sisters said those same prayers over and over, as if sheer repetition could guarantee results.
As if their little prayers had a cumulative effect on God, adding one on top of another…( 287) In Love Medicine, Marie does not want to bow to the saints, she wants to be the saint herself. Rather than wanting to be a pious and loyal believer, Marie wants to show that she is better than the white and the nun. She wants to show her existence. I think, the way Marie imagines and thinks about the Catholic’s devotional acts on ‘holy’ things (such as kissing the statue), also serve to ridicule the Catholics practice. Many scholars has mentioned it, but never so concrete, yet funny, as the way Aldrich does through Marie) So I went there, I knew the dark fish must rise. No reservation girls had ever prayed so hard. There was no use in trying to ignore me any longer…. I was going up there to pray as good as they could. …And they never thought they’d have a girl from this reservation as a saint they’d have to knell to. But they’d have me. And I’d be carved in pure gold. With ruby lips. And my toenails would be little pink ocean shells, which they would have to stoop down off their high horse to kiss (Love Medicine ,43)
Lipsha also turns to Indian Gods because Christian God seems to be indifferent. Christian God is as indifferent as the government toward Indian’s cry for betterment.. Lipsha says, “Since the Old Testament, God’s been deafening up on us. …I found there were discrepancies between then and now…God used to pay attention… “.. Was there any sense relying on a God whose ears was stopped? Jus like the Government? (235-6) So, It is seen that some major characters are portrayed as being capable enough to value and criticize Christianity / church institution.
It is their concrete daily experiences that enable them to do such critical and resisting attitude. In Reservation, living daily live has already meant facing white cultural intrusion. The Novel’s ‘model’ in Performing Critique and Resistance Reservation Blues: Surrogating Christian’s Ideal with Indian’s Image Both of the novels do not have a clear-cut solution. Both are also not developed through a linear plot development. But in those various images and points of views, there are some patterns and some oppositions. In that pattern or oppositions, I think the text gives more values on the Indians’ plight.
For example, in Reservation Blues, there are some problems: there is a guitar that leads the master (or the master’s friends) to misery, A band searching for contracts and fame, Love and hate relationships. Many of those problems seek refuge on Big Mom. And Big Mom can make some of the problems lighter or even solved (Johnson healed). Big mom is an Indian leaving on a mountain near the reservation. She has a quality that has a privilege in Indian tribe: She is a medicine woman (just like Sitting Bull). Some problems of the characters in the novel can be seen as a problem between White and Red or Christian and Indian.
In those conflicts, Big Mom comes to help. Therefore Big Mom with her Indian quality is over or transcends the Christianity-originated problems. She is more valuable than any white person is. In Reservation Blues, Christianity is stripped of its love, forgiveness, and Compassion images. It is Big Mom who performs such qualities. Big Mom does the things Jesus ever did In the Bible; Healing people (Johnson and other), walking on the lake, teaching forgiveness, and breaking some food for feeding many people (once again, in a comical way, not by magic but by mathematics. p 301-302).
This replacement of the White Gods to the Indian God is also appeared in the song, “My Gods Has Dark Skin” (130). Big Mom tries to make Victor forgive the white. Victor still hates the Priest who ever touched and kissed him. That is why he doesn’t like the Church (203). Big Mom doesn’t see the priest as an enemy but as a miserable person too. Big mom sees that, “ the poor man hasn’t even forgive himself yet”, “ He cries all day long (203). Big Mom also tries to reconcile Father Arnold with Checkers. Both try to forgive each other, though Checkers still cannot easily accept their separation.
Here, the metaphor appears, the Christian God’s representative (Arnold) needs help from the Indian Medicine Woman (one of Indian God’s pieces). And She somehow can give that. This metaphor/ relation will also prevail in Johnson’s healing. The number one enemy of the Christian God (the evil from Western Culture), that is Satan/ devil who haunts and stays in Johnson life, is overcome not in Jesus’ names through a white priest but through an Indian medicine woman in the reservation. In short, the evil from western world (from western music industry, like Johnson ever did) is healed in the Indian World.
The mythical motif of Satan fulfilling someone’s dream yet asking the most valuable in someone’s life (such as soul), is a common western idea of Evil. It has appeared in the Bible too (the episode of Jesus 40 days in the desert, He asks for Jesus’ obedience and offers world sovereignty in return). It is not coincidence that Johnson brings such evil from his previous world, that is the western culture (Johnson used to be part of American Music Industry, he wants to be an excellent individual among other guitarists ( 263-264).
Though the guitar takes others victim such as Junior’s life, and Chess’ love for her reservation, -thus once again, it shows how the Indians (and Negro) are sacrificed for Music industry-, the guitar’s arrival in the reservation enables Indian Medicine Woman/ Big Mom to show her ability to heal Johnson/ to beat the western evil. Junior’s life is taken because Victor mentions his name when asked about the thing he loves most (p. 255). Victor felt he has sold Junior’s soul (282). The guitar also makes Chess leave the reservation. “She had left her reservation because of that goddamn guitar, that sudden fire it had lit inside her” (275).
Coyote Springs are finally broken. All of these successive plights come from music industry outside the reservation. Father Arnold (Checker’s heart breaker) and the other unknown priest who kissed victor also comes from outside reservation. Those evil and destructive power from outside is overcome inside the reservation by Indian medicine women. Big Mom has showed that she can reduce much of evil power in Johnson life. She too, reduces the emotional pain in Arnold, Checkers, and Victor. So the structure is clear: Indian God-like character heals both white and red skin.
Being compared to what happen in Love Medicine, The Indian Medicine woman (Big Mom) is doing exactly the same as the Christian Nun Leopolda. Both of them try to free someone from the Evil. The Christian does it with arrogance and without the patient’s permission. While the Indian does it peacefully because she is needed by the wounded. Love Medicine: Beyond Christian’s Good and Evil Dichotomy In Love Medicine, besides the problems coming from white society and Christian intrusion to the Indian’s life, there are also some intensive love and hate relations among the two families.
Just like in Reservation Blues, the pursuing of someone’s desire may make someone else suffer. In Love Medicine, the obsessed characters are both Lulu and Nector. They are obsessed to each other. Even after being cured through love medicine, even after death, Nector still comes to Lulu (294). In their own words, they love each other. But I think Marie’s endurance in such betrayal and her loyalty to her children make Nector and Lulu’s relationship become merely an infatuation. Their insistence on continuing their glorified secret sexual relationship has aroused some emotional pains on their official spouse and their children.
Some of those emotional pains are: the son, Lyman, wonders about his real father as society talk about it (294); the husband, Henry, desperately kills himself learning his wife’s sexual adventures (162); the wife, Marie, suffers from being cheated and unfairly being compared to Lulu’s bodily appeal (134, 136, 140, 141), Marie is left with her family’s burdens while her husband glorifies other woman (161); the grand son, Lipsha, is despaired by seeing his grandma being despaired by Nector and Lulu for her whole marriage life (237-8), etc).
In Love Medicine, despite her realization that she doesn’t live a good life (277), Lulu keeps on seeing his love affair as an ‘honest’ attitude. It is just part of her acceptance to her reality. She says that she loves everything she sees. She wants to let everything she likes to come inside her (276). Nector, and other men must be one of those many things. Lulu says,” Yes it is true that I’ve done all the things they say…. I’m not sorry” (277). The structure of the novel too, does not condemn Lulu. Nearly the end of the novel, After Nector’s death, Marie and Lulu’s opposition is reconciled.
Marie helps Lulu treating Lulu’s sick eyes. Lulu says,” We mourned him the same way together…. For the first time, I saw exactly how another woman felt…. It gave me the knowledge that whatever had happened…in the past, would finally be over…(297). In short, the structure (events’ development) is not trapped in (Christian) moralistic view. The ‘bad’ girls are not punished. There is no bad girl there. In Love Medicine, the badness is not something secondary to the goodness. Lipsha ever sad: Indian Gods, good and bad, like tricky Nanabozho or the water monster, Missepeshu, who lives over in Matchimanito.
That water monster was the last God I ever heard to appear. It had a weakness for young girls and grabbed one of the Pillagers off her rowboat. She got to shore all right, but only after this monster had its way with her …Our Gods aren’t perfect… but at least they come around. (Love Medicine 236). The ideal of Indian’s god and Christian’s God is different. After being revised by Jesus and Paul in New Testament, the dichotomy between good and evil is clearer. The good traits belong to God, the bad/ Evil traits belong to Satan. Discrepancy appears. The good are more valuable than the bad.
People want to be good, and hate being bad. They glorify the good and condemn the bad. Arrogance and authority could come from the feeling of ‘already been good’ (holy, etc). That makes Leopolda wants to heal Marie, and the church in Reservation Blues burned Indians’ books. According to Lipsha (236) Indians’ Gods are different. They are not perfect, they do evil like Greek’s God. Probably, Karl Jasper is right when he says that (human/people’s) existence is how the transcendence perceived. (or God is the image of human and vice versa). So, Lulu and Nector, too, need not to be perfect or good.
This probably explains how values in Love Medicine largely resist white man’s culture and religion. In Love Medicine, there is no evil to be punished (it is the white man who wants to punish Gerry and others). Lulu, who is notable for making Marie, Lyman, and her husband emotionally injured, is finally reunited in sisterhood with Marie. In western folklore such as Cinderella, the opposition between Bad girls and Good girls generally ends in the separation between both of them. The good are socially elevated, the bad are punished or just remain in their low status.
It is also worth nothing that the gods (.. ”It had a weakness for young girls…”(236)), just like Lulu, Nector, June, Gerry, and other members of those two families are involved in intricate sexual relationship. It is much easier and more acceptable to see such intricate relationship between the two families in the frame of tribal community rather than from Christian and western individualistic and moralistic view. Probably some residues of the communal attitudes of the Indians appear in those families relation. There, some members are ‘married’ (sexually connected) to each other.
Stokes (1999) has shown that the internal sisterhood relationship between Lulu and Marie, along with other characters’ polyandry and polygamy-like relationship (they are institutionally not married but they really build a family), can only be understood in the Indian way. Stokes finds that the dichotomy between LuLu and Marie, and the events that develop the story (fight for one man/ lover) are very similar to the Indians mythical stories, especially about the daughters of the god Nanabozho (mentioned by Lipsha on page 236), which are Oshkikwe and Matchikwewis.
Stokes reveals: The women in Love Medicine correspond to the mythical sisters in age, Lulu being older than Marie, and their personalities share identifying traits. Like the elder sister Matchikwewis, Lulu is sexually assertive and adventurous. …. On the other hand, Marie, like the younger Oshkikwe, is sexually modest. The girls’ intentions for the young man mirror Lulu’s and Marie’s intentions for Nector. When the young man is revealed to be handsome, Matchikwewis says immediately (referring to the custom of polygamy): “`He will be our husband. But Oshkikwe [says modestly], `No, he will be our brother. ‘…In a few moments, however, this adversarial relationship becomes a bond that lasts throughout Nector’s life. …(1996: 3-4) My intention in using Stokes’s finding about the novel’s inclination to Indian mythical structure is to show that by that inclination, the novel enables itself to counter Christian and western moral system, including its family’s ethic, which always dichotomizes good from bad, as if such separation is possible.
It also enables the novels to show the Indian’s tribal collective society (including polyandry/polygamy-like relationship) as a contrast to western individualism. Conclusion Both Love Medicine and Reservation Blues have critical and resisting attitudes toward American’s assimilation project. They are very critical toward the western’s individualism a long with its Church institution, through which the assimilation is forcefully transplanted. The two novels underline the suffering of the Indian as the result of white society’s project.
The Characters in the two novels give counter-action and counter-belief to white people’s thought, practice and attitude. For example, the novels show that not all of the Indian tribes follow the buffaloes. And not all of the Indians are martial. Instead of being white’s foe, they are largely white’s victims. In both of the novels, the church institution, which is the cultural transformer is depicted as having a damaging and confusing effect. The church is incapable of maintaining its ‘holy’ image.
The nuns and the priests are sometimes stupid, cruel, or hypocrite. For example, Indian’s books and records are burned in Reservation Blues. The art of asking Indian’s god in a proper way is forgotten in Love Medicine. In both novels, the Indian characters are quite critical toward the existing of two different kinds of Gods. Some of them reject the church and its ideal values based on their real experience. For example they recognize the futility of the Christian’s doctrine of poverty and Christian’s God’s indifference in the present day.
In Reservation Blues, its critical and resisting attitude is largely incorporated to the stripping of the holy images of the church. This attitude is also visible in the novel’s depiction of the cruelty of western early settlements. To present the early historical massacre, the novel uses the dream-like presentation. Through the dream and remembrance, the past period (and the future event, like Arnold making love to Checkers) can be juxtaposed and be valued from the present moment. The dream-like presentation also helps the novel to create non-singular visions.
The novel presents mythical quality of God-like Big Mom and guitar-formed Satan in order to show that the lost holiness of the church is replaced by God-like qualities of Big Mom. Thus the Christian’s ( and western) ideal is surrogated by the Indian Image. In Love Medicine, its critical and resisting attitude is visible in the implementation of Indian’s gods and goddess-like relationship among the members of the families, in which Christian morality and western marriage-ethic are no longer suitable.
By doing so, Christian and western values (on individualism, monogamy, and others) are challenged and undervalued. In Indians’ mythology, the gods are not perfect. The distinction of good and bad is even secondary in its importance. Therefore no punishment is strictly applied to the character’s role, and the characters are not supposed to be judged from Christian/western polarized / dichotomized morality. In its tribal perspective, a polygamy and polyandry-like relationship among the two families signifies its inclination to the collective culture.
Through this, western individualism is challenged or given an alternative. References Alexie, Sherman. 1996. Reservation Blues. New York: Warner Books. Bertens, Hans. 2001. Literary Theory, The Basics. London: Routledge Bressler, Charles E. 1994. Literary Criticism… New jersey Prentice hall. Current, N. Richard. 1965. American History, a Survey. New York: Alfred. A. Knopf,. Erdrich, Louise. 1993. Love Medicine. New York: Harper Perennial, Kennedy, X. J. 1979. Literature. An Introduction To fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Kenney, William. 1966. How To Analyze Fiction. New York: Monarch Press. Kirszner, L. G. , & Mandell, S. R. 2000. Literature. Reading ,Reacting, Writing. New York: Harcourt college Publishers. Potter, James L. 1967. Element of Literature. New York: The Odyssey Press. Inc. Roberts, E. V. ,& Henry E. J. 1989. Literature: An Introduction To Reading and Writing. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Stokes, Karah. “What about the sweetheart? : The “Different Shape” of Anishinabe Two Sisters Stories in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Tales of Burning Love”. ttp://www. findarticles. com/ FindArticles > MELUS > Summer, 1999 > Article > Print friendly: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnics Literature of the United States, 1999 Taylor, Richard. 1981. Understanding the Elements of Literature. New York: St. Martin’s Press VanSpanckeren. Kesusasteraan Amerika, garis besar. Trans. Sumantri Ar. Lembaga Penerangan Amerika Serikat Wiget, Andrew O. “Classroom Issues and Strategies “ . www. Georgetown. edu/faculty/bassr/heath/syllabuild/iguide/erdrich. html.