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In Louise Erdrich's novel Love Medicine, there are many characters introduced to the reader. Lulu Nanapush makes her first appearance in Chapter Four.
Lulu has come to live with her uncle, Nanapush, and his wife Margaret Kashpaw, called Rushes Bear (for attacking a bear, head-on). Lulu very much loves her uncle; for the most part, there is no love lost between her and Rushes Bear.
Lulu has recently come from the government school. As Chapter Four begins, she says that she "never grew from the curve of my mother's arms." And as much as Lulu has tried to stay physically connected to her mother in some way, her mother had left her to grow up alone.
Lulu goes on to say,
Following my mother, I ran away from the government school...so often that my dress was always the hot-orange shame dress and my furious scrubbing thinned sidewalks the matrons forced me to wash.
Lulu continues to run away, and is continually punished. However, her connection to her mother remains strong. Surrounded by a foreign world of "rough English," Lulu misses her native language as her mother used to speak it, and during very difficult times, she can hear her mother's voice comforting her in her native tongue.
It is this voice, which Lulu describes as coming from all around her, that keeps Lulu "from inner harm." Her mother's voice is a living thing to her:
[My mother's] voice was the struck match. Her voice was the steady flame.
Eventually, though her mother is not there, her uncle writes the words in letters that she needs to hear, words that bring her home. And as she gets older, Lulu admits she becomes more like her mother, needing her all the more as this happens: for Lulu grows to be a wild and passionate young woman.
Strangely, though they are not together as Lulu grows up, mother and daughter are very close—not physically, but in spirit. Lulu can hear her voice comforting her, and that voice never loses its ability to strengthen her. That voice is what pulls Lulu's "pieces" together, so that she can move on with a wholeness that might be missing from other girls growing up without their mother.
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