Sunday, December 6, 2009

Louise Erdrich’s Style in Love Medicine

Louise Erdrich is a very talented Native American author. Her novels about Native American life on and off the reservation have won her recognition around the country. Philip Roth said about her novel the Plague of Doves that “Louise Erdrich's imaginative freedom has reached its zenith—The Plague of Doves is her dazzling masterpiece” (Roth). However, besides her incredible story telling abilities, what makes her the most interesting is her style. In her short story cycle Love Medicine, Erdrich changes narrators, settings, plots, times, tenses, and even points of view right in the middle of a story.
The first interesting thing about Louise Erdrich’s style is the way she introduces multiple narrators over the course of the cycle. Many times, she even will introduce multiple narrators in a single story. For example, in the last story of the cycle, “Crossing the Water”, Erdrich switches the narrator from Howard Kashpaw to Lipsha Morrissey in just a couple of pages (Erdrich, 2009). This gives a lot of depth to the story. The reader is able to see the story, and sometimes the same event, from the minds of almost every single character in the book. There is no need to guess what the characters are thinking, because likely as not that character will be telling the story within the next five pages or so.
Another interesting thing about Erdrich’s style is the way she shifts the narrator’s point of view in her stories. She frequently goes from third person to first person before going right back to third person. For example, in the first story in the cycle, “The World’s Greatest Fisherman”, she begins the story from the third person point of view. “The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kashpaw was walking down the clogged main street of oil boomtown Williston, North Dakota, killing time before the noon bus arrived that would take her home” (Erdrich, 2009). However, on page seven, the point of view changes to first person. “It was almost hot by the week after Easter, when I found out, in Mama’s letter, that June was gone – not only gone but suddenly buried, vanished off the land like that sudden snow” (Erdrich, 2009). While this sudden switch in point of view could be confusing for some readers, Erdrich makes it so that it takes very little effort to follow along with the changes. It adds yet another layer of depth to the stories. The reader is able see the entire setting in a 3-D, 360 degree sweep. The reader is able to take in every detail and thought as if they were in the story feeling what the characters are feeling.
In conclusion, Louise Erdrich’s unique style only makes her a more interesting writer. She takes the story and shows it to reader from every possible angle. This not only improves the experience of reading Erdrich, but gives us a grand picture of the Native American life in the 20th century. The review of this book by the New York Times says it all, “There are at least a dozen of the many vividly drawn people in this first novel who will not leave the mind once they are let in. Their power comes from Louise Erdrich’s mastery of words… Every detail in this novel counts. (New York Times)”
Works Cited
(n.d.). New York Times .
Erdrich, L. (2009). Love Medicine. New York, New York: HarperCollins.
Roth, P. (n.d.). Louise Erdrich Biography. Retrieved from

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