The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich
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This novel begins (appropriately enough) with a plague of doves. In your opinion, what does this plague represent? Why is it the event for which the entire novel is named?

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There is a culture clash between the plague of doves and the Catholics who are seeking to scare away the doves with the recitations of the Hail Mary.  The collision between elements where Whites feel that they can overpower and yet feel overpowered by these elements can serve to represent the challenging dynamic between Whites and Native Americans in Pluto. An uneasy companionship guides both to an intense degree. Another thematic significance of this opening scene can represent the futility of human action.  The shooing away of the doves through religion represents how individuals can come to believe the authenticity of what they are doing.  This same authenticity, or certainty in one's actions, is what guides the White mob to lynch the Native Americans. In the response to the plague of doves and the lynchings of Native Americans, there is a clear belief that what one is doing is right, even though the actions prove to be destructive.  In both interpretations, there is a clash of culture in which action is seen as clear, but is far from it.  

In terms of the image itself, something beautiful becoming a "plague," another symbolic interpretation is evident.  The beauty of the doves becomes a plague.  The ability of one element to possess different aspects within its being is seen throughout the novel.  The murder of the family where the purity of the baby is left unsoiled, the desire to help the cows only to see the collection of blood, Mooshum's perceived exalted status only to become reduced to shame, and Corwin Peace who is seen as a delinquent and ends up finding peace and reformation are all examples of how something seen in one light can be viewed in quite another.  The complex and intricate aspect of being in the world is revealed in the novel's opening image and replicated in different settings through different characters.

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