In “The Beads,” a story in Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, Marie must cope with all kinds of family conflicts. Let's look at some of the story's elements.
In terms of characters, there is Marie, who is married to Nector and has several children. Marie also takes in June, her sister's daughter. Nector's mother, Rushes Bear, also comes to live with the family. Eli, Nector's brother, is another character in the tale.
The conflict of the story centers around Marie's difficulties in family life. Nector is often drunk, and he is engaged in an affair. Marie can barely feed her own children, much less June, too. Rushes Bear seems determined to make Marie's life miserable. Eli provides some comfort, and June eventually goes to live with him (even though she is Marie's favorite by this time). When Marie has another baby, Rushes Bear helps her through a difficult labor and finally accepts her as a daughter as the story resolves.
As for themes, we might look at perseverance, religion, and relationships as major themes. The symbolism of the story revolves around the rosary beads that June brings with her and that later become a secret source of strength and comfort for Marie.