The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

Start Free Trial

The Kindred Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 846

One day, Warren walks up to Marn and tells her he can see that she is going to kill. He is put in the state hospital, and Marn stays on the farm while her parents die. Billy leaves and tours around, developing his own religion. His religion is based on spirit, not God, antichrist, or a devil.

Billy argues that everyone’s consciousness is a “sieve of the divine” and that many minds linked together could perceive more. He takes on followers only after testing the quality of their minds, and no followers who adhere to any other religion.

During one of their travels south, Marn meets a family who keep serpents which they believe can cast out devils. The grandmother, Virginie, encourages Marn to hold the snakes, which she does, while giving them the pictures in her mind. She feels close to the spirit this way and takes some snakes for her own.

One night, Billy asks her to show him Milkwaukee, a picture of it as it had been before his parents died. Billy will never let Marn go while she has the pictures.

One night he comes into the bedroom and says the “last things” are upon them. He wakes the children and insists that everyone get down on the floor. When he eventually falls asleep, Marn takes out her serpents for comfort.

The temperature shifts, the snow begins to melt, and the wolf dogs come out. This frightens Marn and she stands suddenly. Her copperhead strikes her full on, so close to her heart that it should kill her. She feels herself fill with poison, the understanding of serpents. It seems to make her more powerful. She hears the serpent tell her to leave Billy and take the children. 

Marn goes out to Seattle to raise money for the Kindred, Billy’s followers. She takes her snakes along. She suddenly realizes that she is filled with darkness.

Frenchie does not notice this when he picks Marn up at the station on her return. Marn has a waitressing job at the 4-B’s. She also writes pamphlets and handles her snakes at the tent meetings to make money, but she prefers waitressing. She asks Frenchie to take her to the 4-B’s, saying she will buy him a meal. Marn decides that when everything is over, she will come back here and eat with her children, but until then, she will eat only what she absolutely needs. She will be a snake.

Marn is Billy’s only true wife, but he is not faithful to her. Marn is desperate to hold her children. She is terrified that Billy will see her guilt and betrayal when she returns to him.

Children are now forbidden to have names among the Kindred, but Judah and Lilith still have theirs in Marn’s mind. They run to her, and Billy holds her close, noticing nothing.

Every night, telephones ring: people want to send cash and be saved. Men write to say they don’t remember their own names, or to confess their sins. 

Billy tells Marn that if she leaves him, he will take the children and keep them. He takes her to bed and makes love to her for a long time.

The next morning, Marn takes out the money she has made and gives it to Billy. Their treasurer, Bliss, is a woman Marn brought to the Kindred. They bless the money and determine that they need three people to work a day job to increase income.

Marn begins to keep a diary. She notes important moments, such as when Billy tells her he loves her and watches her sleep all night. One night he scratches the sign of eternal life into her thigh with a needle and then licks the blood away.

The following night, Marn brings her serpents into bed with her. When Billy gets into bed, he asks her to cast them out, saying there is something bad in her, but Marn refuses.

Judah confesses that Billy has put him “on schedule,” meaning that he has to stand in the room where the circle is held, to suffer. Marn is appalled, says she will do it for him because he is sick, and feeds him soy sauce so he will run a slight fever.

Before the Schedule, Marn goes for a run to exercise her body. Now that she is awakened, she is petrified of the Schedule, the standing still and the pain. During it, however, the snakes talk to her and tell her what to do. She milks the venom from her rattler’s fangs to fill a syringe and remembers what Warren had said.

One night, she ties Billy to the bed during sex and pushes the syringe needle into his heart. She has a vision of what to do. She will tie a necktie around his throat and winch him into the rafters, so it looks like autoasphyxiation. She sees herself running, then eating at the 4-B’s with her children, the deed to the land in her name.

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

The Daniels Summary


The 4-B’s Summary