Erdrich’s Love Medicine invites its readers to experience the storytelling tradition of an American Indian tribe, the Ojibwa (also referred to as Chippewa), through its use of multiple narrators and resistance to strictly linear plot. There is no main character or focusing narrator; many speak, all with authority. The reader must fit together the pieces to construct the layers of understanding necessary to trace kinship and events. The weaving together of individual voices to form the communal whole is part of Erdrich’s theme. The diverse viewpoints function to reveal the ties of family and tribe as well as to point out how much has broken down between individuals and generations and has been lost, perhaps forever. Every event—June’s death, for example—is viewed differently by each narrator, and the complexity of that which may initially seem simple and straightforward is disclosed. The nature of time is not chronological or linear; it is cyclical and layered. Lipsha says when he comforts his Grandma Kashpaw after the death of Nector, “He [Nector] loved you over time and distance,” suggesting that past, present, and future are united in a profound way.
Although it is realistic in its detailing of contemporary American Indian life— including problems with alcohol, poverty, joblessness, and generational conflict—Love Medicine reflects the fact that powerful myths shape the lives of its narrators, though not in any...
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