Themes and Meanings
Louise Erdrich’s novel Tracks (1988), from which “Fleur” is taken, has two principal narrators: Nanapush and Pauline. The latter, also known as Sister Leopolda, is established as an unreliable narrator by Nanapush, who points out several times that she does not always tell the truth. The events that Pauline relates in “Fleur” are therefore not necessarily what really happened to Fleur Pillager.
Two themes in this story are quite evident. The more important theme—as in Erdrich’s longer fiction—concerns the ways in which Native Americans must struggle to survive and maintain their own cultures. Erdrich as author links destruction, survival, and continuity in the characters of both Fleur and Pauline. The second important theme is the merging of myth and reality through conflicts between traditional Native American and modern Western cultures.
Both Pauline and Fleur are survivors. Fleur is tied closely to both her Chippewa heritage and her white immigrant heritage. In her essay “Where I Ought to Be,” Erdrich says that Native American writers “must tell the stories of contemporary survivors while protecting and celebrating the cores of cultures left in the wake of the catastrophe,” that is, the destruction of Native American cultures by European Americans.
According to Pauline, Fleur has survived two drownings, estrangement from her tribe, and rape. Pauline describes her as being both physically and...
(The entire section is 474 words.)