Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 17
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 971
In 1993, Louise Erdrich published a revised and expanded edition of Love Medicine. Four chapters were added, each further exploring the novel's characters.
After the destruction of his factory by the workers in the brawl begun by Marie and Lulu, Lyman is determined to try again, but this time with a new plan of his own. No longer deluded by his interfering mother, he decides to turn the factory into a casino.
Lyman has read that the laws of North Dakota will be revised in order to allow games of chance on reservation land. Confident that eventually a new law will be passed, Lyman begins to put his plan into effect.
With very little cash outlay, Lyman figures he can set up a basic casino operation, one requiring only rented tables and some folding chairs. The other equipment he plans to get on credit from a gambling supply outfit. The only other preparations are the hiring of a small number of workers, coming up with some kind of promotion, and finding a way to appease the local Catholics, who also run their own bingo games.
In the planning, Lyman speculates on how the white man’s government has historically cheated Native Americans. The Indians were deprived of their own land and then given worthless property, which was regulated so that Indians could not do what they wanted on their own land. Native American children were subjected to a white man’s education and then sent off to a white man’s war in Vietnam. The early settlers traded alcohol for furs and now condemned the Indians for drunkenness. Lyman decides that the only way that Indians can get back at the white man is to use his own law against him.
With the coming permission to set up casinos, Lyman figures this is another way to get the white man’s money without the Indian spending that much of his own. He justifies the casino by speculating on the historical tradition of games of chance among Native Americans. Gambling would not be that much different.
Lyman begins to dream how he will turn the empty factory into a successful casino. He plans on using it to raise the Indians from the poverty that has been inflicted on them. He will get high school graduates straight out of school, train them to work in the casino, and find other ways to benefit the people of the reservation. Lyman smiles as he foresees his future as a rich man once more.
In this continuation of “The Tomahawk Factory,” the focus is completely on Lyman Lamartine. Once again he shows himself as a survivor. Rising from his grief at the death of his brother, Henry Junior, Lyman had created success first through his work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and then in the short-term with his factory. Though he had bowed to pressures put on him by his mother and the Bureau, in planning his casino he is relying purely on himself.
Lyman used to believe he had a “magic touch” when it came to money. Though this is not consistently shown in his financial and career situations, nevertheless he has a way to make things work, at least for a while. Left to himself, he could have some success, though it is shown that his failures are usually due in large part to the decisions and interference of others. With his dreams of a casino, he alone will be responsible for its success. He will train the new workers (without any help from his mother Lulu) and will be a type of economic savior to the reservation community. He has big dreams. But it is uncertain, given past history, of how long those dreams will remain fulfilled. With his past financial successes, he is sure to at least start a new project and see some type of financial gain. His confidence in his own ability is rare among the characters in Love Medicine. Most seem resigned to accepting less than is desirable. The concept of economic self-sufficiency is Lyman’s foundation, both for himself and for his people. If his people will not cooperate, then he will manage on his own.
Lyman presents his case against the white man’s government. Native Americans have been continually placed in no-win situations, according to his speculation, in which the government gives and then the government takes away. What the government gives is usually of shoddy quality, and the result is that Native Americans are condemned for living shoddily. Lyman’s dreams of the casino as a way to gain some economic independence for the people of the reservation have been repeated in reality on many reservations. In states where gambling has been illegal, the Indian bureaus have successfully appealed to lawmakers to make exceptions, as they have on many issues, for the lands set aside for Native Americans. As a semi-autonomous entity, the reservation is allowed to sustain its own economy separate from the rest of the state.
In a way, this chapter presents Lyman as an island unto himself. As the reservation is separate from the rest of the state, Lyman appears to be separate from the reservation. He willingly goes outside of it for employment, and resents being dragged back to work in the factory. His idea for the possibility of providing for the economic well-being of the reservation marks him as someone who has accepted reality as it is, and now is trying to rise above it. Though other characters appear to be victims, both of themselves and their circumstances, Lyman stands out as someone who is striving to be more than what he has become. His strength shines out among the dim, discarded hopes of the other characters. It is he alone that has the possibility of living happily.