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In her essay "The Short Stories of Louise Erdrich's Novels," Suzanne Ferguson states that "Fleur," the short story, “explicates and foregrounds the conflict between masculine/white and feminine/Indian forces.” Indeed, it is within these conflicts that the psychological elements described by Sigmund Freud as the id, the ego, and the superego converge in "Fleur," although the mystical quality of the character of Fleur Pillager obscures absolute identification of all the sources of the motives in the characters.
Here is one interpretation of the Freudian elements of personality as they may apply to certain personages of "Fleur":
The Id - According to Freud, the Id is the basic need and pleasure principle of the human. The Id is composed of primal urges, and it gives no consideration to anything but the satisfaction of these urges.
- Fleur Pillager
In some respects, then, Fleur,compared to a bear by Pauline and possessive of "sly brown eyes," seems to satisfy her Id--although others believe she belongs to Misshepeshu, the waterman, the monster--because she does not thank the men who save her from drowning; in fact, she curses George Many Women when he looks upon her after she washes ashore in a second drowning, "You'll take my place," and he later drowns in his bathtub. In addition, she may have moved from the reservation in order to protect herself from those on the reservation who want to rid themselves of her. Also, she slyly wins just a dollar for many poker games so that she can lure the white men for whom she works into betting more so that she can, then, defeat them. In this way, she can prove her superiority to them (her last name, Pillager, suggests these intentions).
- Dutch James, Lily Veddar, and Tor Grunewald
These men have only allowed Fleur to play poker with them in their hopes of exploiting her by winning her money and, later, by satisfying their animal instincts by raping Fleur.
The Ego - The ego is the component of the personality that exerts responsibility as it takes in the reality of situations. It functions consciously and unconsciously to control the Id in its urges.
Although Fleur, whom Pauline describes as having "strong and curved teeth" like a bear, acts in a very primal manner in her intentions to retaliate against the white men for their history of exploitation, she can also be interpreted as illustrating actions characteristic of the Ego since she probably would do deadly harm to the men if she did not control her inclinations and channel them into outplaying the men at poker.
As the sensible wife of Pete Kozka, Fritzie exerts control over Pete and does not allow him to "talk behind her back." Further, she keeps the men from destroying the roof of the meat locker in their search for the men because this locker is important to their business.
The Superego - The Superego is the moral and ethical center of a person. Often equated to the conscience, the Superego is developed because of ethical and moral restraints placed on people by their parents or other caregivers.
- Pauline, the narrator
Since the unconscious motives are also part of the Superego, Pauline can, perhaps, assume this role. For one thing, she controls the narrative, and she also acts as the agent of revenge. Ashamed of her weakness in not responding to Fleur's cries for help when she is being raped--
[I] couldn't unlatch myself from the trestles...I closes my eyes and put my head in my arms...[hearing] my name repeated over and over...,
Pauline locks the men in the meat locker, causing them to freeze to death. She explains that she
...heard a cry building in the wind...so I understood that I should move, put my arms out, and slam the great iron bar that fit across the hasp and lock.
Acting upon her conscience, feels that she must right the wrong committed against Fleur and also make up for her not having helped Fleur. However, the "cry building in the wind" may also come from the mystical powers of Fleur Pillager, who purportedly conjures the storm.
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