Going through confusion in love medicine

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Going through confusion in Erdrich’s Love Medicine



I) Blurriness and lack of order as a way of creating powerful characters.

a) Multiplicity of narrative voices: the novel’s strength in character’s construction.
b) External objects, a way of knowing about the individuality of each character.

II)The meanings of the novel: a reader ‘s construct

a) Subjectivity and multiplicity of points of views
b) Repetitions
c) Blanks , indeterminacy as part of construction of meaning


Louise Erdrich is one of the most prolific and challenging contemporary Native American writer. American and German through her father and French and Ojibwa through her mother, herfictions reflect aspects of her mixed heritage. She is the author of a number of award-winning novels, including The Beet Queen, Tracks, and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry entitled Jacklight and Baptism of Desire as well as books for children and short stories. Her first novel Love Medicine, first published, 1983 introduces several generations in the interrelatedfamilies living in and around a fictional reservation of North Dakota. Spanning fifty years, from 1934 through 1984, the novel is told through the voices of different characters, mostly Chippewa men and women who struggle to gain some control over their lives. Confusion prevails throughout the novel. Indeed, when first reading Love Medicine the reader faces a certain lack of unity for there is neitherone main character nor one unique narrator. The reader is also confronted to a complicated plot that involves more than 17 characters from five distinct families (the Lazarres, the Morriseys, the Kashpaws, the Lamartines and the Nanapushes) and 14 different stories that are not always narrated in chronological order. The aim of this exposé will be to show how this chaos and apparent lack ofcoherence is what give all its strength to Erdrich’s novel. My analysis will be based on Iser’s reader reception theory according to which meaning is a construct, a process that is engaged by the reader himself. During my exposé I will actually assume that the meaning of a text is created within the relationship between the text and the reader. I firstly would like to show how blurriness and thisapparent lack of order actually participate in the construction of powerful characters. Then, I would like to show how the reader plays an important part in the construction of meaning.

I) Blurriness and lack of order as a way of creating powerful characters.

Indeed, Edrich’s novel is divided into thirteen chapters each one telling the personal story of a character and being part of a moregeneral plot. These chapters are told by eight different narrators who can be either one of the characters or a third person. This multiplicity of narrative voices can be quite confusing for the reader who does not always know who is speaking and what is talked about. Some critics indeed argue that so many voices make the plot too confusing. Robert Towers is one of them and describes Love medicine asa “book of short stories” in which it is “difficult to recall who ‘s talking” and which has “no central action to unify the plot”(The New York Review of Books 11 April 1985). Yet, I would like to show that this apparent lack of order is one of the main strength of the novel for the reader gets to know each character personally thanks to the different views. The author indeed does not chose aclassical form of narrative but rather adopts a multi voices- style that allows her to create powerful and well- defined characters. Each character is created through its own words of course but also through the voices of other characters. This diversity of voices allows the reader to draw his own conclusions and offers him the possibility to know the personality of everyone. I would like to...
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