The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The physical tie between the characters is a piece of land originally allotted to Nector Kashpaw’s mother, Rushes Bear. Most of her children were assigned to parcels in Montana, but she managed to get a piece of North Dakota wheatland and live on it with her young twins, Nector and Eli. Nector went to boarding school, learned white reading and writing, and grew up to be Tribal Chair and a man of importance; Eli, hidden by his mother in a root cellar, lived in the woods and kept some of the old skills. These two men, who became adults in the 1930’s, represent the oldest generation in the novel; the women with whom their lives are entangled include Marie Lazarre and Lulu Lamartine. Marie went into a convent intending to become a saint; after marrying Nector, she compulsively takes in unwanted children. Lulu, with what seems equal compulsion, makes her own babies—eight boys, each by a different father, who grow up supporting, fighting, and caring for one another. Both Marie and Lulu know how to use power; Marie pushes Nector into becoming Tribal Chair, and Lulu, in a truly wonderful scene, forces the council not to sell her land by threatening to reveal publicly—right then in the meeting—who fathered each of her children. Both remain vivid personalities in their old age, strong and salty women using very different tactics to win what they desire.
The members of the middle generation are not quite so compelling; perhaps they are seen less clearly...
(The entire section is 577 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Marie Lazarre Kashpaw
Marie Lazarre Kashpaw, the wife of Nector Kashpaw. A loving and long-suffering woman, biological mother of five children and mother substitute to numerous others not her own, she is a kind of maternal ideal. She rears June and Lipsha Morrissey. Nector, when he meets her in 1934, calls her “a skinny white girl . . . pale as birch.” In her youth, she enters the Sacred Heart Convent as a means of escaping the reservation, but she later leaves. She marries and tolerates her husband’s infidelity, never giving up hope that she can have him exclusively. To that end, as an old woman she resorts to love medicine.
Nector Kashpaw, formerly a film actor and later tribal chairman on a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. A man of divided impulses and loyalties, he loves his wife, Marie, but also has a passion for his first love, Lulu Nanapush Lamartine. His vacillations are both serious and comic. His wife claims credit for his political success, having nominated him as tribal chairman and kept him sober enough to do the job, and he cannot control his attraction to Lulu. As an old man, he chokes to death on Lipsha Morrissey’s love medicine.
Lulu Nanapush Lamartine
Lulu Nanapush Lamartine, a strong and willful woman, the object of many men’s desire, and the mother of eight children, including Gerry Nanapush. Her many sexual affairs and her political...
(The entire section is 666 words.)
While the second part of “The World's Greatest Fishermen” deals with the reactions of June's elders, children, and niece to her death, “Saint Marie” and "Wild Geese” deal with Nector and Marie Kashpaw, who at times acted as June's parents following the death of her mother. “Saint Marie” shows Marie in early adolescence prior to meeting Nector, as she tries to socially rise by becoming a nun in a convent near the reservation. She is encouraged and plagued by Sister Leopolda, who also appears in Tracks (1988). Marie tries to deny her Native American blood, which Leopolda, like early colonists to the New World, attempts to tie to Satanic influence. As Marie seems headed for sainthood through the lies of the psychotic Leopolda and her stigmata of abuse, Marie recovers her self-love and good sense and leaves the convent. Nector, unaware what has happened to Marie, encounters her outside. Since he has the arrogance to look down upon her socially, Marie seduces him, making sure that the nuns are able to see what she is doing.
“The Island,” not in the original Love Medicine, shows Lulu Nanapush, later Lamartine, running away from a government school for Indians where her language and culture are denied. Seeking rootedness in the tribe, Lulu goes to an island inhabited by Moses Pillager, a shaman and relative by whom she has a child, Gerry Nanapush, who appears in several later stories and The Bingo Palace. Unable to live...
(The entire section is 1627 words.)
See Eli Kashpaw
See Gordie Kashpaw
See Henry Lamartine, Jr.
See Henry Lamartine
At the beginning of the story in 1981, Albertine Johnson—daughter of Zelda and granddaughter of Marie—is away from the reservation studying to be a nurse. She returns home upon hearing of her Aunt June's death. Once home, she tries to get Grandpa Kashpaw to recall his years as an Indian revolutionary.
Albertine has always been independent. In 1973, the fifteen-year-old runs away from home to Fargo, where she meets and sleeps with Henry Lamartine, Jr. In 1980, trying to decide what to do with her life, Albertine meets Gerry Nanapush and his girlfriend, Dot Adare. Albertine works on the construction sight with Dot until Dot delivers Gerry's baby.
Zelda, sister to Aurelia and daughter of Marie, is Albertine's mother. Zelda was raised as June's sister. Zelda thinks Albertine should be married. She also criticizes June's son, King, for marrying a white girl when Zelda, herself, had been married to a Swede.
Aurelia, Albertine's aunt, is Marie's other daughter and Zelda's sister. She lives in the old homeplace on the reservation.
(The entire section is 1723 words.)