The Plague of Doves Essay - Critical Essays

Louise Erdrich

Literary Criticism and Significance

Acclaimed by many critics as her best novel yet, The Plague of Doves appeared on several bestseller lists after its publication in 2008. The novel employs Erdrich’s technique of creating multiple narrative voices, shifting temporal scenes, and explorations of multiethnicity and tension in Native American culture. Similar to her first novel, Love Medicine, which was published in 1984 and awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award that year, The Plague of Doves employs a mode of storytelling that is fashioned in the tradition of Native American storytelling: circular, spiritual, and symbolic. Writing for The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani says:

her storytelling here is supple and assured, easily navigating the wavering line between a recognizable, psychological world and the more arcane world of legend and fable.

The tales of the town’s past and present inhabitants are almost mythical as the characters attempt to challenge the obstacles that hold them back and to forge ahead to a new destiny. The setting of Pluto is rife with ghosts; the past is not a memory but intertwined with the present. Bruce Barcott of The New York Times says:

In The Plague of Doves, Erdrich has created an often gorgeous, sometimes maddeningly opaque portrait of a community strangled by its own history.

Author Louise Erdrich is a daughter of the Ojibwe tribe. Having been raised in Wahpeton, North Dakota, Erdrich feels compelled to pen stories about Native American life and culture. Erdrich is the author of several novels, short story collections, children’s books, and poetry collections. A highly praised writer, Erdrich has received many awards for her work. The Plague of Doves was selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. In the same year, the novel won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, which is given to books that have made a significant contribution to understanding racism and cultural diversity in our community. Erdrich continues to be a major contributor to literary fiction about Native Americans, and her stories garner respect and support from many in the literary community.