Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Marie Lazarre’s narration is down-to-earth, laden with pungent metaphor and psychologically acute. In a manner reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn, she moves between the language of the unlettered country girl (“They don’t want no holy witness to their fall”) and the astuteness of the clinician: “Veils of love which was only hate petrified by longing—that was me.” Both statements epitomize the story’s multiple levels of meaning. The drunkards do not want the nuns to see them literally falling down outside the bar, nor, thinks Marie, do they want witnesses to their “fall from grace.” The veils remind the reader of the nun’s veil to which Marie aspires (to hide her origins?), but the veils are really stone, that frozen immobility of hate and longing that barricades and conceals the vulnerable and misused little girl.

Christian themes and allusions enrich the story. Sister Leopolda’s hooks, first on the long oak window-opening pole and then on the poker, recall two biblical hooks: the shepherd’s crook, adopted as a symbol of bishops’ guidance and authority, and fishhooks, reminiscent of the New Testament passage in which the apostles are to become “fishers of men” and “catch” souls for Heaven. Marie compares herself in her naïve faith to a fish that has taken bait, and at the end of the story she squirms like a gaffed fish in her recognition of Sister Leopolda’s pathetic hunger for love.

This comparison is one of many references to food and eating throughout the story. Further paralleling the comparison of fish’s...

(The entire section is 642 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Though "Saint Marie" is a story told largely in chronological order, it is simultaneously told through a flashback. An older Marie Kaspaw...

(The entire section is 81 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Louise Erdrich, born of maternal Ojibwa descent and of paternal German-American descent, was a storyteller at an early age. Her knowledge of...

(The entire section is 227 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Touted as being one of the country's best Native American writers, Louise Erdrich explores social concerns important to Native Americans in...

(The entire section is 167 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Critics drawn to Erdrich's writing compare her work to that of Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty in its development of place and character....

(The entire section is 80 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

After "Saint Marie" was first published in The Atlantic Monthly, Erdrich incorporated it into an expanded version of her first novel...

(The entire section is 199 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bruchac, Joseph. “Whatever Is Really Yours: An Interview with Louise Erdrich.” In Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets. Tucson: Sun Tracks and University of Arizona Press, 1987.

Coltelli, Laura. “Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris.” In Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Erdrich, Louise. “Where I Ought to Be: A Writer’s Sense of Place.” The New York Times Book Review 91 (July 28, 1985): 1, 23-24.

Erdrich, Louise. “The Writing Life: How a Writer’s Study Became a Thing with Feathers.” The Washington Post Book World, February 15, 2004, 13.

Hafen, P. Jane. Reading Louise Erdrich’s “Love Medicine.” Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 2003.

Meadows, Susannah. “North Dakota Rhapsody.” Newsweek 141, no. 8 (2003): 54.

Rifkind, Donna. “Natural Woman.” The Washington Post Book World, September 4, 2005, 5.

Sarris, Greg, et al., eds. Approaches to Teaching the Works of Louise Erdrich. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2004.

Stookey, Loreena Laura. Louise Erdrich: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.