Critical Overview

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Louise Erdrich has been a popular novelist and a critical success since the publication of her first novel Love Medicine in 1984. “Fleur,” which was in draft form during Erdrich’s college days, gained early praise from Erdrich’s professor and future husband Michael Dorris. As Ruth Rosenberg quotes Dorris in her entry on Erdrich for the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 152: “[‘Fleur’] was alternately hilarious and terribly sad, a building swirl of impressions that clung to the imagination with incredible power.” Critics tended to agree; the story was selected by editor Sharon Ravenel as a distinguished short story of the year, and in 1987 it was a first-place winner in the O. Henry Awards. The story was then incorporated into Erdrich’s successful 1988 novel Tracks.

In her essay “The Short Stories of Louise Erdrich’s Novels,” Suzanne Ferguson compares the original story version of “Fleur” to chapter 2 of Tracks, writing that the story version “explicates and foregrounds the conflict between masculine/white and feminine/Indian forces.” Ferguson goes on to assert that the central focus of the story is not Fleur but Pauline, who, she argues, is actually responsible for allowing Fleur to be raped “out of weakness—and possibly envy of Fleur’s strength and attractiveness,” and then avenges her “on behalf, perhaps, of women in general.” Other critics discuss the characters of Fleur and Pauline across the entire novel Tracks, focusing on various themes, including feminism, displacement, Native American history, and the issue of narration. Barbara Hoffert in her Library Journal review of the novel calls it a “splendid” work by a writer “whose prose is as sharp, glittering, and to the point as cut glass.”

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