What is the plot in chapter 11 of Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapter eleven of Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich centers on Gordie Kashpaw. Despite the fact that June and Gordie's marriage was less than perfect, Gordie is struggling because of his own feelings of guilt about her death, and he seeks comfort and relief in alcohol. 

One night, he is drunk and calls out June's name. Immediately Gordie is frightened because, in his culture, calling the name of  a dead loved one will kind of conjure her, as his grandmother taught him:

“Never, never, ever call the dead by their names...They might answer.” 

In his fear, Gordie tries to do all kinds of things to try to avoid June's possible presence. None of it works, though, and he sees June's face in the window. When the electricity goes off, he believes June did it (though he does it himself), so he rushes out of the house and drives off.

Unfortunately, Gordie is rather drunk, and he is driving erratically when he hits a deer He puts the (supposedly) dead deer in the back seat and begins to react both to what he has done and to his need for more alcohol. 

The deer is not dead, just stunned, and when it wakes up Gordie is so shocked that he smashes the creature with a tire iron, despite the deer's haunting eyes as it looked at him. When he turns around to look more closely at the deer, Gordie is horrified by what he sees: he sees June, not a deer. He is convinced it is her.

She saw how he’d woven his own crown of thorns. She saw how although he was not worthy he’d jammed this relief on his brow.

He realizes that his abuse of June is ultimately what killed her.

Sister Mary Martin de Porres is the person through whom we get a picture of the rest of the chapter. Late that night, Gordie looks to her for solace and confession, though she insists that she is not the proper person to hear his confession. Nevertheless, she checks the back seat of his car and immediately begins to cry. 

While the nun is crying at the loss of the deer and tries to explain that, though it was horrible, killing a deer is no crime. When she tries to give the deer last rites, Gordie runs of into the woods, wailing about having killed June. 

In this chapter, Gordie struggles with the conflict between his Native American beliefs and the Christian practice of confession. His native American beliefs prevail. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial