"They don't fix them in those places," Mom said; " They give them drugs." Why is this quote from The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich important to the story?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote, "They don't fix them in those places," Mom said; "They give them drugs" can have several different meanings.

This quote deals with the condition of her son Henry who left for the war and came back a changed man.  They are part of a Native American reservation, and as those present speak of what can be done to help Henry, his mom is clear about the problem. Moses Pillager cannot be trusted because he had courted her long ago and is jealous of her husbands, so he might try to hurt Henry out of revenge. There are no Indian doctors on the reservation, and Henry's mom fears that if they take him to the hospital, he won't be allowed to come home. "They don't fix them in those places," Mom said; "They give them drugs."

There are several ways to look at this passage for its significance.

The first may be Henry's mom's distrust of the treatment her son would get at a "white" hospital. It would seem she fears that they would try to put a "band aid" on what troubles him by giving him drugs, but not finding the root of the problem. In this way, he would be dependent on a substance, but have no chance to truly get well: 'without knowing the cause of a problem, how can you fix it?' she might be saying.

The quote might also reflect that she has no faith in hospitals at all. She refers to "those places" which might lump all hospitals together. This could be a cultural reflection as to the ineffectiveness of anything but "old medicine," passed down through the generations of her people.

A third possibility is that she may have a sense that her son cannot be helped under any circumstances. The world of the Native American has changed to something unrecognizable. Gone are the days of raising strong warriors to live off of the land, ride free on prairies that belong to no one in particular, and find a sense of positive self-worth, pride and accomplishment in carving out one's life with the doing of everyday things in the old ways. Here her son is sent to a foreign war, 'foreign' in every sense of the world, and perhaps she dismisses the treatment already knowing that her son is lost, and nothing any doctor can do will fix him.