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In Louise Erdrich's novel, Love Medicine, the chapter entitled, "Resurrection" could have several meanings.
Early in the chapter, when Gordie (Marie's son) appears in the yard, he has only recently started drinking. We know that it is a return when Marie refers to the last "good" time. Resurrection may refer to his return to drinking.
The pants that had fit him when he began drinking weeks ago were falling off, barely held up by a piece of clothesline...From the little utility room that Gordie himself had tacked on during his last good six months, she took her cleaning rags and bucket.
Resurrection might refer to the memories Marie recalls—the hard work of everyday the milking of cows, laundry to be done, bread to bake, babies in diapers. These dreams allow the reader to understand that Marie has always been a "planner," seeing work needing to be done, and applying herself to it until it is finished...these memories will be with her at the end of the chapter.
Finally, "resurrection" takes on a darker meaning with regard to Gordie's unpredictable behavior, along with Marie's responsibility to do what must be done.
When Gordie arrives at Marie's house, he is swaying in the yard; then he falls over like he is dead. Marie covers him up with a patch blanket. He sleeps there until the next day.
Gordie wakes—Marie hears him in the kitchen eating everything he can get his hands on. She gets him to change his shirt, and suddenly, he becomes violently ill, flinging himself into the doors, walls and stove. Then he falls down, unconscious. Marie cleans up the room and begins her work again, moving around her son as she goes from one task to the next.
When he finally gets up, Gordie asks his mother for a drink, but she has nothing. They speak for a while, and he apologizes. Then, instantaneously, he becomes nasty:
'Give me that shot.' His demand was sharp, sudden, sober. He rose toward her, bigger, expanding his chest, pushing out his neck cords...when his hand came near, she raised her paring knife and slashed him lightly [on] his palm...
Gordie settles, losing himself in memories of June. When he stirs, he goes into the cleaning closet and ingests the contents of a container of Lysol. Again he thrashes out of control until he comes to rest on a bed and is finally still.
Marie picks up an ax and waits in a chair at the door. When he awakes, she notes:
His eyes shone, green white, empty in their sockets...There was something horrid and gentle about his movements, as if he had lost the clumsy weight of humanness. He retreated with the tiny shudder of a sigh into the darkness.
Marie is surrounded by memories. She will get the job done, whatever it is. She remains armed with the ax, ready to kill him if he emerges from the room again. In this condition, he is not only dangerous to himself, but also to her. He paces "like a fox chasing its own death down a hole."
Resurrection can refer to Gordie's potential resurrection to sobriety:
On the third day he would rise though...he would rise and walk.
Only because Marie guards him, does it seem possible that he will get through this alcohol-induced trial. If he cannot, Marie will kill him. If he can make it through the next three days, they will begin the process again. She alludes to the resurrection of Christ in referring to "the three days." It will be a miracle if Gordie can be saved.
While some sources suggest Gordie does not survive, I find nothing to support this in the text.
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