Suggested Essay Topics
Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1452
1. Family is an important concept in Love Medicine, and the relationships between characters are complex. Many of the characters have vastly differing opinions of June, for instance. Some revere her, while others show a certain amount of disdain for her. Discuss at least two different characters' perceptions of June, and how the characters' relationship to June affects his or her perception.
2. Eli does not ride in King’s car because it was bought with insurance money from June’s death. Several others treat the car cautiously as well. Discuss the relevance of a car as a symbol for June, given what you know about June’s personality and death.
1. Marie and Sister Leopolda are both very concerned with power and competition. They compete over being good and over their respective knowledge of Satan, but Marie leaves the convent while Sister Leopolda stays. How does Marie’s perception of power change during her relationship with Sister Leopolda? How does her idea of her own and Sister Leopolda’s power change?
2. What preconceptions does Nector have about Marie Lazarre? How does meeting her show him that he is wrong? When the chapter ends, he feels bound to her. Why?
1. The bead necklace the Cree Indians give to June is for the Cree's own protection. June gives those beads to Marie. Why would she give them to Marie? What does it indicate about their relationship, and about how June perceives Marie? How do you interpret Marie’s reaction to the gift?
2. At the beginning of the novel, we learn that June has killed herself.
Chapter 4 contains a scene in which June directs the other children to hang her. What does this say about June's character? How does her reaction to Grandma Kashpaw’s interruption of her hanging further add to our knowledge of her character? The episode prompts Grandma Kashpaw to tell June that she is a blood relative and can live with the family. Why does Grandma Kashpaw do this?
1. Lulu has eight sons and is known to be promiscuous. The fathers do not know which, if any, of the sons are theirs, and the sons often do not know who their fathers are. Not one of them asks Lulu. Beverly and Henry Junior are one such unknowing pair. Choose one of the potential fathers or sons, and discuss how his lack of knowledge affects his behavior and ambitions.
2. Nector is married during his affair with Lulu. However, he becomes infuriated when she implies that she would marry Beverly Lamartine. This is clearly a double standard, although Nector may not realize it. After he burns down Lulu’s house, he walks away from the idea of being with her entirely, although previously he could not keep a vow to never try to see her again. What changes for him? Is it the double standard? If not, why not? Do Nector's views change?
1. Nector is jealous because Lulu considers dating Beverly, while Marie is jealous because Nector declares he is in love with Lulu. The immediate cause of Nector’s jealousy is speculation and discussions about physicality and commitment with another person, while Marie’s jealousy is sparked by Nector's actual declaration that he is in love with someone else. These are two quite different situations. Compare and contrast Nector and Marie’s jealousy. How could such different causes result in the same emotion?
2. From a very young age, Marie has been struggling to be good. She freed herself from the burden of her family name, and broke free of her relatives, when she married Nector. Previously, she thought joining the Sacred Heart convent would be the way to become good, but she turned her back on that idea. Discuss the evolution of Marie’s idea of “being good” and how her life has thus far succeeded or failed to meet that goal.
1. Several people in the novel must face the fact that their initial perception of a loved one is inaccurate. For instance, Lyman’s recognition that Henry Junior cannot be brought back to how he was before he fought in the Vietnam War. Another example is the disparity between Beverly’s fantasy of saving Henry Junior and impressing Lulu in contrast with the reality of how superfluous he is to their lives. A third is Marie’s realization that Nector can be drawn away from her, despite her investment in him. Compare and contrast two such instances and what they reveal about the observer.
2. Gerry is a habitual prison escapee who inspires fellow Chippewa Indians. His lack of belief in the letter of the white man’s laws, combined with his ability to get free of them, is something that many people, including his mother and son, are proud of. Explain how someone who breaks the law can be a hero and an inspiration. What new ideas of justice and injustice does his story provoke? Does it point to a systematic failure in the white justice system?
1. Gordie is the only person related to June who sees her after her death. He is an alcoholic and quite emotional at the time of the sightings, but ghosts are mysterious and perhaps incomprehensible. Discuss Gordie’s reliability as a narrator and witness. Does he really see ghosts, or is he simply a delusional alcoholic and therefore an unreliable observer?
2. There are many incidents of violence in this novel, starting in the first chapter where King assaults the car bought with June’s insurance money. In that instance, the object of King’s violence—the car—is not the cause of his anger; rather, it is Lynette. When Gordie kills the deer, is there a similar lack of correlation between the victim of Gordie's violence and the cause of his anger? Explain.
1. The turkey hearts Lipsha feeds Grandma and Grandpa Kapshaw are the explicit love medicines in the book Love Medicine. Love medicine is the ancient art of binding people to each other through the use of powerful tokens, amulets, or objects. Argue for the existence of at least one other token or amulet used as “love medicine” in the book. What is it? Whom does it bind? Does it succeed or fail?
2. Grandma Kashpaw and Lipsha try to use love medicine to cause Grandpa Kashpaw to be faithful and love Grandma Kashpaw. Grandpa Kashpaw dies in the process but returns after death to be with Grandma Kashpaw. He only leaves this world when Lipsha tells him it is okay to do so. Did the love medicine work? Explain.
1. Love Medicine takes place on a Chippewa Indian reservation. The Kashpaw family owns land given in allotments by the government. However, a tribal council governs the tribe and makes decisions about land ownership. When Lulu property is threatened, she makes the argument that the tribal council is licking up the scraps Uncle Sam has left behind. She accuses them of fighting over the tiny allotments that the white government has granted them and argues that the council does not respect itself or the tribe members when they follow the white's definition of property and ownership. Lulu’s claim to the Lamartine land is that it has historically been theirs and that the Lamartines have always used it. The tribal council argues that the boundaries were never properly established, and the paperwork was not in order. The tribal council views property rights similar to the way the U.S. government views them. Discuss the notion of property that Lulu suggests and contrast it with the notion that the council endorses. What larger economic and political issues does this conflict raise?
2. When Lulu moves into the Senior Citizen’s Home, she comes to a new appreciation of Marie. Later in the novel, they become fast friends. How could two such rivals in love for so many years resolve their differences and become friends? Explain how they could get over their jealousy of the other’s hold on Nector.
1. Lipsha wins the car bought with June’s insurance money in a card game. In the first chapter of the novel, this car was said to symbolize June to many family members, and it was treated carefully by everyone except King, the former owner who damaged it in a rage. Discuss the handing off of the car as a symbolic event for both Lipsha and King.
2. Lipsha is the son of June and Gerry and only discovers this as an adult. King is the son of June and Gordie, and always knows this. Both were raised by Grandma Kashpaw. King is the father of Howard and wife of Lynette. Compare and contrast King and Lipsha’s relationship with family.