Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 16
In 1993, Louise Erdrich published a revised and expanded edition of Love Medicine. Four chapters were added, each further exploring the novel's characters.
Told from the viewpoint of Lyman Lamartine, the son of Lulu and Nector, this chapter expounds on the relationship between Lulu and her son. Following the suicide of Henry Junior, Lyman believes himself to be a changed man. He has lost his magic touch with money. If he rises in the world, he believes, it is at the expense of someone else. His relationship to his brother was problematic, but it was real and cannot be ended by death. Lyman is bothered by the tradition that says if a Chippewa drowns, he will not be able to rest. Lyman talks to his brother, hoping that somehow Henry Junior will answer back, but he gets no response.
For a year following Henry Junior’s death, Lyman wallows in grief. He loses money and stays drunk most of the time. He receives from the government a notice that he owes back taxes. Distraught, he rages against the government until he thinks that, if he files for the past year, he might be due some money from overpaying his taxes. After he files, he notices on the form he received that it had been misaddressed. He did not owe taxes after all. He is grateful that this mistake brought him out of his misery and back into life.
Lyman signed on for a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in nearby Aberdeen. One day, he receives a call that his mother is in another office, ranting about a proposed factory that will make cheap Indian souvenirs that are currently made overseas. Ironically, this is the very project that Lyman is working on. He learns that his mother is bringing the project up in the Bureau’s next meeting.
Lulu has in mind a factory that produces “museum-quality” artifacts rather than junk for tourists. Lyman is transferred back to the reservation from Aberdeen to run the new factory. He resents being dragged back, but Lulu is determined to preserve that Indian heritage, even to the point of replacing the buffalo that once roamed the prairies. She has given him a list of the job applicants, broken up into families and clans, so that all will be represented in the factory.
Despite his mother’s interference, Lyman designs an assembly-line schedule for the production of tomahawks, as well as other “genuine” Indian-made products. He hires his mother and Marie, the wife of his father, to work in the factory. Since Nector’s death, the two have become allies, enjoying each other’s company, to a certain extent. Lyman has difficulty figuring out the relationship, especially since his parentage cannot be brought up. Lulu continues to interfere with Lyman’s management of the factory, implying that the workers are unhappy. Lyman fires his mother, despite her threats that the workers will walk out with her. He eventually rehires her.
Throughout the winter, business slows, and Lyman is forced to lay off workers. Marie and Lulu’s relationship returns to what it had been before and sparks fly. When past history is brought up, the sparks turn hot. The fight between Marie and Lulu spreads throughout the factory, and all the workers are in a battle with each other. The factory is almost destroyed.
In despair, Lyman drinks a bottle of alcohol, meant to open frozen gas lines. As he lies drunk, Lipsha comes in and tries to control him. Leaving the factory, Lyman goes down to a bar, where he meets Marie. He apologizes and asks if his father, Nector, ever talked about him. Marie does not answer. Lyman notices her hands are marked with shapes. Marie confesses that she put her hands in the birch bark imprinting machine. Lyman is troubled that her hands that had comforted so many have been hurt. Lyman apologizes again, and then he and Marie dance.
Lyman is climbing back to life following the death of his brother, Henry Junior. Losing more than a brother, Lyman has lost a father figure, since his own father, Nector, is married to another...
(The entire section is 1,133 words.)