In Erdrich's Love Medicine, in the midst of death and loss, this novel is full of comic moments. What is the purpose of this?
Louise Erdrich does, in fact, interject humor within her novel Love Medicine, even when there is death and loss all around.
One passage where we see this is in Lulu's story, in "The Good Tears." While Lulu has a knack for seeing the humor of things, sometimes it is a dark humor:
I don’t believe in numbering God’s creatures. I never let the United States census in my door, even though they say it’s good for Indians. Well, quote me. I say that every time they counted us they knew the precise number to get rid of.
This is humorous on one hand, but reflective of how Lulu's people had been moved and cheated, and how the government was still trying to move them and control them; there is a sadness about her comment which reflects the lack of respect afforded Native Americans in this country by the European whites who settled the U.S.
Other bits of Lulu's outlook were humorous in putting things into perspective, which Erdrich has a gift for doing:
Henry Lamartine had never filed on or bought the land outright, but he lived there. He never took much stock in measurement, either. He knew like I did. If we’re going to measure land, let’s measure right. Every foot and inch you’re standing on, even if it’s on the top of the highest skyscraper, belongs to the Indians. That’s the real truth of the matter.
Some of the stories have a triumphant feel to them. Lulu and Marie come to a meeting of the minds in "The Good Tears." That morning, Lulu wakes up, noting (with some humor) that...
...life went on even more usual than usual.
Both women have loved the same man. Lulu's ongoing affair with Nector has hurt Marie (Nector's wife), but now he is dead, and both women grieve. Marie puts drops in Lulu's eyes after her surgery, putting "tears into your eyes...", speaking to Lulu who believes she is incapable of crying, but perhaps allowing Lulu to feel the pain she wants to feel at Nector's death. And it shows how good can ultimately be born of bad situations.
Humor is as much a part of these people's stories as tragedy, heartache, failure, triumph, renewal and loss. Erdrich includes the many aspects of relationships between people—between spouses and family members. Her stories are perhaps more believable in that her characters have moments of enlightenment, when they put things into perspective, rise above their pain, and find that there is still something to smile about.
Perhaps, too, this is Erdrich's way to remind herself and her reader not to lose sight of the humor that sometimes presents itself at unlikely moments, but can still has the same positive effect.