Although Fleur is the central figure of the novel, the reader’s understanding of her character is mediated by Nanapush and Pauline, who also serve as the narrators of the novel.
From the perspective of Nanapush, Fleur is a real victim, like many others including himself, of harsh winters, diseases, starvation, government policies, and the scheming of outsiders such as lumber companies and even mixed-blood Indians. A bond exists between Nanapush and Fleur, who warmly calls him “uncle” and treats him as such. For Nanapush, however, Fleur is not only human and daughterly, but also symbolic of the historical predicament of the Anishinabe. As a young woman, Fleur has won his recognition by holding on to the traditional way of life, thus making her an ideal companion for a young man like Eli, who also lives by traditional ways. Thanks to her spiritual and moral strength, which surpasses her passion for Eli, she has turned into a woman warrior in the end, though paying the high price of losing her daughter and husband for her refusal to compromise.
The charming and eerie qualities of Fleur as a character are largely derived from Pauline’s narration, unreliable as it is because of Pauline’s delusions. From her perspective, Fleur is both a peer and a legend. As a peer, she is a model and a rival for Pauline, who is fascinated and overshadowed by her magnetic attraction, especially her sexuality, which Pauline tries to emulate, or else jeopardize. As a legend in the eyes of Pauline, Fleur is not only a miraculous survivor of drownings and hardships, but also a powerful sorceress endowed by the lake monster with the...
(The entire section is 672 words.)