What is the significance of the title in Medicine River?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that there are several ways to look at the title.  The basic idea is to ensure that some connection to Native American identity is present in the way one connects the work to the title.  One particular approach might be in how the town, itself, is fictional.  The notion of "Medicine River" is a town where Native Americans are able to find some sense of collective solace.  Yet, it does not exist.  Perhaps, there is something being said here in terms of how Native Americans like the ones featured in King's work have to try to find community solidarity and a sense of collective in seizing the strength needed to endure and prosper in the modern setting.  Another implication that is brought about from this is how the characters who live in Medicine River are ones who do not let the condition of Native American define their worlds entirely.  The depictions seen in the novel are not ones where victimization and silence are evident.  Will is internal, but Harlen is able to be the catalyst for much of what Will does.  The basketball team of Native Americans are not forlorn, but actually a cohesive unit.  Louise is prosperous and not locked into stratification from being a woman or Native American.  These examples help to identify how there is strength in the people who live in "Medicine River," an idea that Native Americans can seek to live in the "streams" of the dominant culture and be able to find the potential remedy for challenges posed from their own senses of self.  This makes the idea of "Medicine River," something nonexistent, real and vibrant in the people who live in it.  It might be here where the title has profound meaning.

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Medicine River

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