The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

by Louise Erdrich

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What role does the trickster play in The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse?

In Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, the trickster is associated with individual characters and the overall structure and plot development. The concepts of deception and unanticipated outcomes that are associated with the trickster figure into the gendered identity changes of Father Damien and Sister Cecilia. Through her frequent employment of trickery and deception, which are heightened by the use of alternating narrators, the author can also be considered a trickster.

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Throughout The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich shows the trickster as a character type and as a set of influential concepts. The novel overall conveys how the trickster operates, as its plot contains many twists.

Throughout, various characters engage in deceptions, some of which are ultimately exposed. The character of Nanapush, an elderly Native American man who delights in fooling others, embodies dimensions of the mythical trickster. The novel’s persistent emphasis on trickery and deception also raises the possibility of considering the author as a trickster.

Through the character of Agnes, who becomes Sister Cecilia and then Father Damien, religion and gender are intertwined. Faith is part of the impetus for Agnes’s decision to become a nun, but this change of identity proves insufficient. Erdrich encourage the reader to wonder about Sister Cecilia’s transformation into Father Damien. Is she trying to deceive herself as much as the townspeople? Both the trickster and her Catholic faith may be uneasily coexisting within her. This approach to identity is further complicated by the revelation that Father Damien himself had previously been female.

The elderly Nanapush often provides comical elements in the novel, just as the trickster does in myth. He also manipulates other characters by explicitly lying to them or hiding his knowledge from them. He is not above using his gifts to distract others for an apparently petty goal, such as winning a game—as when he admits to having known Damien’s secret. As a storyteller, his role might be compared to that of the author.

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