The concept of “mimicry” is a preeminent feature of colonialist literature, as expressed by Homi Bhabha in his essay on “the ambivalence of colonial discourse.”...
Mimicry is present in numerous places and applies to numerous characters in Tracks. It is clearly seen in Pauline. Mockery is associated with Nanapush.
The concept of “mimicry” is a preeminent feature of colonialist literature, as expressed by Homi Bhabha in his essay on “the ambivalence of colonial discourse.” Building on the epigraph he borrows from Jacques Lacan comparing mimicry to the technique of camouflage in warfare, Bhabha explores ways that colonized subjects take on characteristics of the colonizers. They neither become the colonizers nor overtly mock them, but they often exaggerate selected characteristics, both internal and external. The colonizer subject, rather than exactly reproduced, is thus “almost the same, but not the same.” In mockery, however, the colonized subject makes fun of the colonizer; their overt actions are more obviously threatening to the colonial mission.
Pauline Puyat, of Ojibwe and white heritage, embraces the Christian God and becomes a nun. She enters the convent, becoming Leopolda, and, in an effort to absorb the ideals of self-abnegation, she emulates behaviors that she understands as expressing Christian values. As Pauline’s motivations spring largely from rejection of her own heritage, Erdrich implies, her actions do not express a genuine faith. She is infused by erotic sensations when sensing God’s embrace. Her path to martyrdom includes wearing a rough, potato-sack shirt, neglecting to wash, and—notably, given the title Tracks—wears her “shoes on the wrong feet,” thus leaving misshapen footprints. Like an early missionary, she makes bringing souls to Christ part of her mission, even if it means killing them.
Nanapush, an elderly Ojibwe man, continues to practice the old Native religious ways, although as a young man he had a Jesuit education. He tells of mocking their teachings: when asked about the concept of "the irreducible," he replies that it is “what the owl pukes" (thus, the essence of something). He also mocks Christian religion as Pauline embodies it, targeting her new practices, both her “hairshirt” and her lack of hygiene.
Andersen, Emily E. 2011 “A Piece of the Endless Body of the World: Gender, Identity, and the Coexistence of Binary Forces in Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Tracks, and Love Medicine. MA Thesis, Dalhousie University.
Bhabha, Homi. 1984. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” October 28: 125-133.
Horne, Dee. 1999. “I Meant to Have but Modest Needs: Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.” In Contemporary American Indian Writing: Unsettling Literature, pp. 275-292. New York: Peter Lang.