Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The struggle for survival is one of the most obvious themes in Tracks. All the major characters in the novel are survivors of not only the environment, famines, and epidemics, but also the historical reality of genocide, dispossession, and deprivation. Despite the sense of doom overshadowing the entire Matchimanito reservation upon the encroachment of outside interests, however, upholders of the tribe’s cultural tradition have fought in the best way they can: Fleur by crushing the lumber crew and Nanapush by campaigning for the position of tribal chairman.

The struggle for survival, which reaches tragic proportions, is closely related to the theme of cultural conflict. Ostensibly, the Christianity of Pauline, though half-baked, is pitted against the traditional wisdom of Nanapush, who is nevertheless conversant with white culture. The native way of life, together with its tribal kinship system and symbiotic relationship with the environment, is challenged by the white way of life, including its nuclear family, exploitation of natural resources, greed for land, and oppression by legal codes. The mixed-bloods, caught between the two ways of life, lean toward one pole or the other, but while adapting to the cultural change, they also exhibit symptoms of dysfunctionality and confusion. Their predicament, which is epitomized by the conversion of Pauline, pervasive alcoholism, incestuous marriages aimed at amassing land, the subsequent loss of land...

(The entire section is 500 words.)

Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Tracks Erdrich deals not only with individual American Indian lives but the loss of a tribe's land and identity during a crucial...

(The entire section is 344 words.)