Student Question

List examples of figurative language in chapter 11 of Love Medicine.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich is an interesting novel because each chapter focuses on some crisis, and chapter eleven is no exception. Gordie Kashpaw is wrestling with his conscience (and with alcohol). 

One example of figurative language is the deer as a symbol of June, Gordie's dead wife. The deer is literal, but in Gordie's distraught and hallucinating mind, she becomes his wife. A deer has the quality of being an innocent creature, and we have several sayings which support that. Caught like a deer in the headlights, of course, refers to an innocent who is frightened or intimidated by someone. This is Janie in reference to Gordie. A Chinese expressions says, “point to a deer and call it a horse," which is quite apt for Gordie's hallucinating about June and the deer. 

Also part of the deer imagery is what Gordie sees (or thinks he sees) in the deer's eyes. he says of the deer, which he sees as June:

She saw how he’d woven his own crown of thorns. She saw how although he was not worthy he’d jammed this relief on his brow.

This metaphor refers to the self-punishment Gordie has inflicted upon himself to somehow atone for his guilt over killing June (at least indirectly).

Another metaphor is the description of Gordie's guilt as a "burden." When he confesses his sins to the nun (rather than to a priest), the author aptly describes it this way:

telling her had removed some of the burden from him already.

One final form of figurative language is metonymy, in which a smaller part or attribute serves for a larger part or attribute. When Gordie leaves Sister Mary Martin at the end of the chapter, Erdrich says he runs back to 

 “reservation grass and woods."

Here, grass and woods are representative of the entire reservation. 

As in most novels, there is plenty of figurative language which is generally helpful to enhance the readers' appreciation and understanding of the work; chapter eleven of this novel is no exception, and you will undoubtedly find many other examples as you start reading. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial