Saint Marie Summary
by Louise Erdrich

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Saint Marie Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Marie Lazarre is reliving the day that she tried to join the nuns in the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Walking to the door, she considers her motives: to be respected, even revered, by the nuns, who look down on her because she is from the reservation (even though she does not “have that much Indian blood”), and to get away from “the bush” and into town. She also remembers the day Sister Leopolda, hearing the “Dark One” in the coat closet, hurled a long hooked pole through the closet door, then made the terrified Marie stand in the dark closet because the girl had smiled.

Sister Leopolda shows Marie in by the back door, then takes her to the larder and lets the girl see the rich food reserved for the priest. She feeds Marie goat cheese and talks to her while they mix and knead bread. Marie challenges the nun, asserting that she will inherit her keys to the larder, and Leopolda says that she can see the devil in Marie’s soul. When a cup rolls under the stove, Leopolda makes Marie reach under with her arm rather than the poker to retrieve it. As the girl lies on the floor, the nun places her foot on Marie’s neck, pouring boiling water on her back and shoulders to warm her heart with devotion.

As Marie eats cold mush, waits for the bread to rise, and listens to the nuns eating their sausage, she has a vision: She has been transformed into gold, her breasts tipped with diamonds, and she walks through panes of glass that Leopolda must swallow. Two French nuns enter the kitchen, ask if Marie belongs to Leopolda, and compliment the girl on her docility; they help rake coals into the oven. While the bread bakes, Leopolda takes Marie to her room and puts salve on the girl’s back; Marie sees her vision again and tells...

(The entire section is 488 words.)