Summary and Analysis Chapters 5 – 6

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New Characters Henry Lamartine: Lulu Nanapush’s husband who committed suicide.

Beverly Lamartine: Henry’s brother who believes Henry Junior is his son.

Henry Junior: Born nine months after the funeral for Henry Lamartine, Henry Junior is Lulu’s son and possibly the son of Beverly.

Elsa: Beverly’s girlfriend at his home in the Twin Cities.

Summary In 1957, Beverly returns to the reservation to try to claim Henry Junior, the boy he thinks is his son. During his brother’s funeral, Beverly had consoled the distraught Lulu, who had fallen into the open grave. Henry Junior was born nine months later. Beverly works selling after-school workbooks for children door-to-door and is quite successful. To make his pitch, he uses a photograph of Henry Junior, and although they have never met, he has grown very attached to the boy. While in the Twin Cities, Beverly has concocted fantasies of sweeping back home for Henry Junior, introducing him to urban life, and being adored by both Lulu and Henry Junior as a savior of sorts.

When Bev actually returns with the intent of taking Henry Junior, he must face reality. Henry Junior has seven brothers, and Lulu is a strong and determined woman. While discussing memories, Henry accidentally brings up the time Lulu outplayed Henry and Bev in strip poker and then decided which of the brothers she would marry. Overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, Beverly is happy when Henry Junior comes in to ask for a sandwich. But the boy, too, is strong-willed and almost scares Bev.

When Henry Junior leaves, Lulu approaches Bev, and he finds himself unable to resist. After succumbing to her charms, Beverly loses all sense of his plan and gives up on the idea of taking Henry Junior. He tries to leave Lulu’s house and return to his girlfriend, Elsa, but ends up asleep beside Lulu.

Nector narrates chapter six, which is also set in 1957. He is a lucky, handsome fellow, and jobs always seem to fall into his lap.

For example, after graduating high school, Nector was in a Hollywood movie briefly, but he quit because every part for Indians ended in death. Shortly afterward, a painter asked him to model for her. She demanded that he strip and raised her offer until he agreed. Then she painted a picture of a naked Indian leaping to his death from a cliff top, and called it The Plunge of the Brave. The picture was renowned and hung in the state capitol. Nector became angry that the only Indians the world wants are dead or dying, so he returned to the reservation.

Girls had always come easily to Nector, but he fell for Lulu Nanapush. However, when Marie Lazarre materialized—as related in chapter two—Nector could not seem to let her go, although he continued to fantasize about Lulu. Marie and Nector married, and in one year lost two babies. Then Marie began to take in all the foundling children on the reservation, and there were babies everywhere. The chaos eventually got to Nector.

In a moment of stillness and absence of demands, Nector realized that he was growing old. And in that moment, he thought of Lulu. Circumstances shortly thereafter brought him and Lulu together. Lulu had the only air-conditioned car in town, and on the hottest day of 1952, two semis full of surplus butter showed up. Nector pressed Lulu into delivering the butter with him. When they were done, Nector apologized to her for not coming all those years ago when he was distracted by Marie, and then they had a food fight with the butter, followed...

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by sex.

When Nector returned home to Marie that night, she yelled at him for not bringing any butter home to their family. Nector began visiting Lulu once a week, sneaking into her house at night, and this lasted for five years. During this time, Lulu had a child, although Nector did not know if the son was his.

In 1957, Beverly Lamartine shows up and Lulu insinuates that if it weren’t for Marie and Nector’s relationship, she would not be considering Bev. Nector guesses that Lulu is going to marry Beverly. Jealous and infuriated, Nector vows never to see Lulu again.

At the same time, the tribal council concludes that Lulu is squatting on her land and doesn’t actually own it. Since the reservation wants to sell that land, they agree to kick her and her sons off. As chairman of the tribal council, Nector has to sign the order. He goes to apologize to Lulu, but she throws him out, and suddenly he wants her back.

He writes a note telling Marie he is in love with Lulu, and places it beneath the sugar canister on the kitchen table. Then he slips off into the woods with a written proposal to try to win Lulu back. When he knocks at Lulu’s door, no one answers. Waiting is difficult on Nector’s constitution. As the implications of what he has done begin to set in, he tries to light a cigarette with nervous, shaking hands. He smokes the cigarette and then throws it down. Unfortunately, it lands on the letter to Lulu, the paper ignites, and the house goes up in flames.

While the defeated Nector watches it burn, a vision of Marie appears before him and beckons him home.

Analysis Chapter five highlights Lulu’s determination and strength. She avoids asking why Beverly has come just as much as she avoids telling him whether or not Henry Junior is his son. She evades these things without fear or cowardice. Rather, she seems to evade these issues matter-of-factly, as if to just keep her family together. Instead of having to discuss and enact Beverly’s agenda, which has grown out of his fantasies of being a savior for Henry Junior, Lulu manages to keep the interaction with Beverly on her own terms. She is stronger, more seductive and more in control than Beverly had remembered, and so she overwhelms his fantasy and forces him to confront the reality of her family life. Instead of being powerful and forcing the issue, Beverly realizes that Lulu and Henry Junior have complete and happy lives without him or his intervention. Beverly cannot save those who do not need saving.

Unlike Beverly, Nector experiences no revelation regarding Lulu’s strength and power. Where Beverly wished to save Lulu and Henry Junior, Nector relies heavily on Lulu. He knows full well the chaos and trouble his baby-laden household contains. At home, he is never in control of events, and he is at the beck and call of Marie and the children. He often feels lost amidst the wails of the children and constant chores of the household, and Lulu is a sanctuary from that life. He escapes to Lulu, and she helps him to survive the stress and nagging of everyday family life. However, Nector comes to a difficult realization about Lulu. He realizes that although she can share him, he is incapable of sharing her. Even the birth of a child, which is probably his, does not make him understand his own jealousy. It is only Lulu’s open discussion of Bev that causes him to finally recognize his jealousy. When he does comprehend how much he really wants Lulu, he tries to dismiss her in his mind and stop seeing her.

Reservations politics intervene. There is no way for Nector to keep from signing the eviction notice, but there is no way for Lulu to accept it as anything less than an insult. Once Nector considers himself in the wrong, if not factually at least morally, he decides to come to Lulu as a penitent and propose. However, her absence throws him off, and when he accidentally burns down her house, he is paralyzed by his own actions. He does not want to face the implications of what he has done or consider what a new life with Lulu, without a house, would be like. Now that he has wronged her in two ways, he feels he cannot ask her to love him.


Summary and Analysis Chapter 4


Summary and Analysis Chapter 7