My teacher keeps contrasting Marie and Lulu in Love Medicine. However, I think they are alike aside from their love lives. Can anyone justify these differences?

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In Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, Marie Lazarre Kashpaw and Lulu Nanapush Lamartine have numerous similarities, although their lives play out very differently and they end up in different places. Both are strong women who are prominent maternal figures.

One of the main differences involves Marie's more numerous experiences...

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In Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, Marie Lazarre Kashpaw and Lulu Nanapush Lamartine have numerous similarities, although their lives play out very differently and they end up in different places. Both are strong women who are prominent maternal figures.

One of the main differences involves Marie's more numerous experiences off the reservation and the extent of her Christian faith as she enters—and later leaves—the Sacred Heart Convent. Marie has five children of her own but serves as a mother figure to other children that she and her husband, Nector, take in and advise; these include June and Lipsha Morrissey. Lulu bears and raises eight children, each boy having a different father; they form a combative but still close-knit clan.

Both characters, in Erdrich's telling, exemplify the powerful side of Native American women. Marie uses her influence on her husband, urging him to be the Tribal Chair. Lulu in part retains control over her own destiny because she alone knows who is the father of all eight children. Both women live long lives and continue to wield their considerable influence in their older years.

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It's certainly easier to point out their differences, as the two characters are radically dissimilar.  However, I would say that one trait the two women definitely share is their ability to extract themselves from situtations.  Lulu leaves crazy Moses after the birth of Gerry.  Marie cooks up the elaborate story about the marks of the cross appearing on her hand after she's stabbed by a fork.  The story lets her escape the convent.

While both of these characters are able to escape, their freedom is only temporary.  Lulu winds up in a burned out shack and at the mercy of the government.  Marie is freed from the convent, only to be raped by Nector, married and then seemingly perpetually pregnant.

The fate of the Marie and Lulu is in many ways analogous to the fates of Native Americans who find that despite their intelligence and abilities, they are nonetheless trapped in a hopeless situation. 

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