How can we describe the family influence in Love Medicine?

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Louise Erdrich’s debut novel, Love Medicine , tells the story of five Native American families living on reservations in North Dakota and Minnesota. Each chapter switches point of view, and different characters serve as the narrator at different points. The five families are interconnected and the narrative spans the...

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Louise Erdrich’s debut novel, Love Medicine, tells the story of five Native American families living on reservations in North Dakota and Minnesota. Each chapter switches point of view, and different characters serve as the narrator at different points. The five families are interconnected and the narrative spans the 1930s to the 1980s.

The influence of family is saturated throughout the narrative and is essential to understanding the key themes of the novel. One key theme is the idea of Native American identity. Native Americans often face issues of identity, and this dynamic is specifically important to those with mixed-blood heritage, as Erdrich has spoken about previously. Many of the plot points within the narrative mirror Native American cultural motifs, which reinforced the theme of cultural identity.

There is also an interesting connection between the idea of family and the idea of home. Native Americans on reservations were forced to give up their original and ancestral homelands, which makes their finding a home on the reservation an interesting dynamic. Inherent to the idea of home is the idea of belonging; a person naturally feels like they belong at their home. However, because the idea of home is artificial for the characters, they instead find their sense of belonging with their specific, immediate families, as well as their overarching Native American family.

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In Louise’s Erdrich’s novel, the intertwining strands of family love and obligation provide much of the plot structure. The ways that individuals move away from their birth families and form new families, and the kinds of family-like but socially unsanctioned relationships, are equally important for Love Medicine’s characters. Erdrich also implies that those who struggle to reconnect with their families, or are left isolated or alienated from social bonds, often feel incomplete; some of those characters completely rupture their ties through taking their own life. The extent to which community, especially through shared Native American heritage, can expand or substitute for immediate kinship relations is also explored throughout the novel. We see this especially in Gerry Nanapush as he embarks on the journey of political activism through the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Going back to the earlier generations, Erdrich shows how one person’s decision can have lasting consequences. June Kashpaw’s literal inability to reach her home, connected with her emotional and psychological distance from Native life, sets in motion some of those effects. Although in future generations, Albertine pursues a “white” occupation of nursing, in striving to learn her heritage, the uncomfortable truth is not always welcome.

Along with the Kashpaws, the other main lineage that Erdrich traces are the Lamartines. The devoted but imperfect matriarch Lulu Lamartine, for example, has complex relationships with her sons. When Henry returns damaged from the war, his re-entry problems and ultimate suicide affect his brothers, especially when they find they cannot be honest with their mother, thus confirming the limits of family bonds.

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Written by Louise Erdrich in 1984, Love Medicine tells the story of two Chippewa families, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines, who live on an Ojibe reservation in North Dakota. The action takes place from 1934 to 1984, and the story is presented as a series of connected short stories narrated by a number of different family members.

Family is not only an important theme that runs throughout the novel, but it is what Love Medicine is all about. This is highlighted from the very beginning with an illustration of a family tree on the opening pages. Erdrich explores Chippewa family ties and the importance of loyalty through the eyes of the Kashpaws and the Lamartines.

The novel highlights not only the importance of ties within each family, but also the ties between the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. Although they live on different sides of the reservation from one another, they are connected in a number of ways, which is evidenced by the illustration of the family tree.

Love Medicine also demonstrates how, for Chippewa culture, these family ties bind people to their heritage. For example, when Albertine returns home after the death of her Aunt June, she spends time with her grandfather in order to learn more about her family’s history and her tribal connections.

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This novel is all about family: the legacy a family can leave behind, and the influence of family members upon one another. Love Medicine is a novel that contains a series of related stories about different generations in the family. In the stories set during the contemporary era, characters refer back to their older relatives, or to some who lived generations before. The stories of the various family members sometimes provide life lessons, or romantic or thrilling tales of love or survival, or cautionary tales on what not to do (for example, when Nestor tries to work love medicine on his grandparents, he freely admits he did not follow the old ways, and his laziness causes him to do a poor version of the ritual, which he blames on making their situation worse).

The deep connection of the family ties is evident in every character's story in this volume, so it is a constant theme. But the family legacy is also its own sort of folklore, in that generations repeat the stories and treasure them as being part of their own individual experience, even if they were not personally involved. There is a sense of the family stories being important, a tradition to be carried on, and in some cases the characters are heroes or heroines, having lived through trying times (like the story of the winter of 1918, when the family was starving and Eli must learn to hunt elk) or performing great acts of selflessness or bravery. But there are also villains in the family storyline, and these are considered as significant as the admirable characters, perhaps because of the lessons their stories impart.

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