Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 4
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1014
In 1993, Louise Erdrich published a revised and expanded edition of Love Medicine. Four chapters were added, each further exploring the novel's characters.
Lulu was abandoned by her mother as a child. Missing her greatly, Lulu rebels, eventually running away from the government school where she is constantly under some form of punishment. Her uncle Nanapush writes to her, and Lulu goes to the reservation to live with him and his wife Margaret, who calls herself “Rushes Bear.”
Rushes Bear does not like Lulu and often criticizes her. Having raised all of her own children (including Nector and Eli), Rushes Bear was looking forward to time alone with her husband when Lulu, the "intruder," shows up. Despite Rushes Bear’s contempt for her, Lulu forms a close bond with Nanapush, viewing him as the father she never had. In retaliation, Rushes Bear frequently goes to the Kashpaw land on the reservation, staying for days, weeks, even months at a time. Lulu is content with this arrangement and resents Rushes Bear’s occasional returns. One time, Lulu asks Nanapush about his “love medicine,” his power that always brings Rushes Bear back. Nanapush states that he lives on Indian time rather than the white man’s, stopping in his lovemaking to eat and regain strength before he continues rather than getting it all over at once as the white man does.
Lulu notices that Nector—Nanapush and Rushes Bear’s son—starts to take a romantic interest in her. Nanapush and Rushes Bear both warn her that Nector is also seeing Marie. Lulu begins to show signs of jealousy.
During one of Rushes Bear’s visits home, Lulu looks out across the nearby lake to the island where her cousin, Moses Pillager, lives. She has heard stories of this wild relative and becomes intrigued enough to want to go to the island for a visit. Rushes Bear warns her that Moses is too close a relative and will only lead to trouble. Nanapush does not object quite so strongly, so Lulu boats over to the island and confronts Moses.
At first Moses is uncommunicative, but Lulu persists. She forces him to show her some hospitality and eventually she has made her place. The two become lovers, and Lulu stays for several months. It is an idyllic existence with just the two of them, and Lulu becomes pregnant with her first child, Gerry. She is worried about giving birth, especially if she has to conduct the birth by herself without a midwife. Yet she stays with Moses, knowing that eventually she will leave both the island and Moses behind.
In this additional chapter, Lulu's background is expanded. Abandoned as a child and raised by a loving uncle and contemptuous aunt, Lulu becomes more understandable in her constant search for love and acceptance, which she unfortunately finds in a string of usually unsuitable men.
The abandonment that Lulu experiences as a child contributes to her alienation and suppressed bitterness against the world. She misses her mother, who inexplicably deserted her and left her to the care of the government school. Her rebellion is linked to her lack of a place to call home, which she does not have until she is taken in by her uncle Nanapush and his wife Rushes Bear. Though Rushes Bear has little affection for her, aside from an eventual appreciation for her cooking, Lulu finds in Nanapush the parent she needed and longed to have. His gentle wisdom and unconditional love give her a sense of stability. It is Nanapush’s example that later provides her with a model for her own parenting, with mixed results in her eight sons and one daughter. Yet despite the difficulties, Lulu manages to make a home for her offspring, until Nector destroys it accidentally.
Her love for Nector begins at this point, when she meets him as a teenager. Though he is clearly smitten with Lulu, he goes instead to Marie and eventually marries her. Yet throughout his life, he continues to seek out Lulu for a relationship of convenience, perhaps love, until his death. The intertwining of their lives makes Lulu an integral character in the lives of the entire Kashpaw clan. For good or ill, the children of Lulu and Nector interact, marry, and reproduce, though stability is something that is as elusive for them as it is for Lulu. When Nector marries Marie, Lulu seeks to make him jealous with the loner Moses, by whom she has her first child, Gerry. The months on the island are a source of joy for Lulu, even though she realizes that it is only temporary because Moses will never leave the island. His refusal to do so eventually causes her to marry Morrisey in revenge.
This chapter further highlights Lulu’s displacement. She has one foot on land with the Kashpaws and the other on the island with Moses. Throughout her life she does not seem able to find one place to plant roots. When the tribal council threatens to take her land from her, land on which she has been squatting, she threatens to name the fathers of her children aloud, some of them married members of the community. With that threat, she is allowed to keep her land, and eventually a house is built for her to replace the one that Nector accidentally burned down.
The island itself symbolizes Lulu’s existence. Set apart from the larger community on the reservation, she manages to make a life for herself separate but viable from the others. The barriers she has placed around her, for protection for herself and her children, are represented by the deep waters that she crosses to reach Moses Pillager on the island. As her sojourn on the island is temporary, so too are the relationships she has with others. Her acceptance by Nanapush is not repeated in the many men she encounters, but the animosity she receives from Rushes Bear becomes the standard in her relationships with women. Isolated and alienated, Lulu lives her life as a proudly solitary woman.