The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

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How does vengeance vs justice play out in The Plague of Doves? Where are there examples of vengeance and where is there justice served? What does Erdrich make us want to choose in this book?

The story is centered around a group of teenagers, three Native Americans and one white boy. There are five teens in the group that cannot be named because they are innocent. According to tradition, these five teens will always be known as "The Five". They find a farmhouse with dead bodies and an infant still alive. The baby is crying. One of the boys wanted to take the baby but the other said no because if they go inside they will be accused of murder. So they leave the house and head back home. One year later, the town finds out about this crime and that there are five teen boys who know what happened. These teens are interrogated by officers and executed for the crime when they don'

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In the novel "The Plague of Doves ," there are many stories in one. The story spans many years and they are all connected to one another. The story is set in North Dakota on the Ojibwe reservation and the bordering town of Pluto. In 1911 in the town...

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of Pluto, an entire farm family is murdered. The only member of the family to survive is the infant. We see the killer looking at all the blood and listening to violin music. Mooshum, Cuthbert Peace and Asignak and Holy Track are a group of Indian teenagers, who happen upon the farm. They hear the cows carrying on because they have not been taken care of, and the teens go to see what is going on. When they happen upon the house, they see blood on the door and hear the baby crying inside. Cuthbert wants to go in and help the baby, but is reminded by the others that if they go in they will be charged with the crime. They leave, but later an anonymous note is sent to the authorities. 

This is where we get the first taste of vengeance. Mooshum, in a drunken state, tells the authorities the names of the other teens with him when they found the farm house. The police charge the teens with the crime and hang them. Only Mooshum is spared. The story then spans many years later. We see the effect this horrible crime has had on the town. Mooshum is now an older man who still drinks too much. He lives with the ghosts of the past. 

We meet a doctor named Cordelia Lochren. This is where justice is best served. Cordelia treats a farm man named Uncle Warren Wolde. She sees him twice a week until he has to be admitted to a state hospital. When he dies he sends Dr. Cordelia a package. Dr. Cordelia asks the hospital what happened to the man. They tell her that upon hearing a young man playing the violin, he dropped dead. Dr. Cordelia, as it turns out, is the surviving baby of the family that was murdered. She puts all the pieces together and realizes that Uncle Warren was in fact the killer of her family so many years ago.

The young teenagers who were accused and killed for the murder of the family were so terribly wrong. The consequences of that one decision left a mark on the whole town for decades. After reading this book, we want to see justice served and we do see that with Uncle Warren. The whole story is filled with little stories and all the characters tie in with one another. We see the injustice that was served to the teens and how justice was served to the real killer. The realization that this has affected the whole town for so long is felt long after you are done reading the book.

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