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Tracks: Louise Erdrich

College Lit
by

Taylor Norby

on 21 May 2013

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Transcript of Tracks: Louise Erdrich

Tracks
by: Louise Erdrich Abstract: Tracks starts out with meeting Nanapush, (an elder in the community). He talks about the Winter of 1912 and the illness Native Americans faced. Nanapush narrates every-other chapter sharing with a woman Pauline Puyat. Nanapush tells his story of taking care of Fleur to his granddaughter Lulu. Fleur survived the sicknesses that her entire family had died from. Nanapush saved her from freezing. Fleur is feared by many people in her town because she has survived death, drowning and has had others take her place. The story line continues with Pauline who envies Fleur being that she is nothing like Fleur. Instead of being beautiful and mysterious like Fleur, Pauline is invisible to everyone. Pauline uses medicine to ruin ties between Fleur and her husband (Eli), and the family Pauline lives with. Towards the end of the book Fleur and Eli raise money to keep their property entrusting Nector (Eli's younger brother) with the money to get it to the Agent, instead he uses the money to keep his mother's land. After the loggers come Fleur cuts the trees surrounding her home halfway through the trunk and when the wind blows it destroys the logger’s equipment. Themes! Louise Erdrich uses several themes in Tracks:
Unreliable Narrators, forcing the reader to decide what is true and what is not.
Native beliefs vs Western beliefs, shows the struggle Native Americans had with keeping their values while evolving into the Western world that threatened them.
Unknown, Erdrich creates Fleur as a mystical woman with powers to survive death and is loved by the Lake Monster, Misshepeshu. Similarity to Solar Storms: In both books there is a force that they are against. Fleur was against the loggers while Angel and Bush were against the dam. Both had no say in what was happening to the land their ancestors had once prospered on. Similarities to Things Fall Apart: In both books one of the younger generations deserts old beliefs and converts to Christianity. In Things Fall Apart it was Nwoye, Okonkwo's son, who abandoned their religion while in Tracks it was Pauline, who had been determined to collected souls and inflict pain upon herself to prove her loyalty to Christ. "I [Pauline] confessed that I had made a set of underwear from a potato sacks, and when I wore it the chafing reminded me of Christ's sacrifice" (page 143) This self-pain continued with not moving while sleeping, not bathing and wearing shoes on the wrong feet. An article published in the TIMES newspaper on Sept 12, 1988, by: R.Z. Sheppard: "Fleur is also an embodiment of a tribal mythology that includes resurrections, encounters with spirits and lake monsters" Describes Fleur with unique characteristics It also describes Pauline, who is comparatively different to Fleur "Pauline, a 'skinny big-nosed girl with staring eyes,' is a Christian convert who struggles to shed her ancestral beliefs" On page 189, Nanapush describes Pauline's jealous eyes, "... I was worried, for the still look in Pauline's eyes made me wonder, so like a scavenger, a bird that lands only for its purpose. I saw those eyes on Fleur" At this time Fleur was ill and Pauline had always helped people leave this world to go onto death. Nanapush is worried having her there in case she will somehow push Fleur to death because of her hatred and jealousy of Fleur. Towards the middle of the book a neighboring enemy families kidnap Nanapush and Margaret (Eli's Mother) and torture them, beating Nanapush and shaving Margaret's long braids. Once they had escaped and showed Fleur the damage, "She [Fleur] walked calmy to the washstand and scraped the edge of her skinning knife keen as glass. Margaret, you [Lulu] and I [Nanapush] watched, did not say a word to make Fleur stop as she cut her braids off, shaved her own head clean... She turned to us, still beautiful as before, but now in a frightful way" (page 117). Fleur was different, she reacted differently and took her revenge on one of the men, "Just two days later... Lazarre entered the store. His eyes rolled to the skull when he saw Fleur. He stretched forth his arm and pointed along its deepest black vein and dropped his jaw wide. Then he stepped backwards into a row of traps that the trader had set to show us how they worked. Your mother's eye lit... All the whispers were true. She had scratched Lazarre's figure into a piece of birchbark, drawn his insides, and rubbed a bit of vermilion up his arms until the red stain reached his heart" (page 125). Ecocritism: In Tracks nature is a force not just a setting. Fleur is somehow able to control, change, and use nature. Why is this story being told????? The entire point of Nanapush telling Fleur's story is to enlighten Lulu of her mother. He is attempting to get Lulu to forgive her mother. He's hoping that through Fleur's life-story Lulu will understand why Fleur sent her away to a government school. (so that Lulu wouldn't have to suffer like Fleur, Nanapush and the other Native Americans.) "...[some] were glad Fleur had come back because--we didn't like how she did this--she kept the lake thing controlled" (page 35). Lake thing refers to Misshepeshu.
"But she also disturbed the area around Matchimanito. Those woods were a lonely place full of ghosts of the drowned and those whose death took them unaware... Yet we couldn't resist hunting there. The oaks were big and the bush less dense, the berries thick and plump, the animals seemed fatter and more tender" (page 35). Green Studies: Name for Ecocriticism in the United Kingdom, but focuses more on the threats or dangers of nature... Pauline's thoughts, "There was a devil in the land, a shadow in the water..." (page 137). Feminist A Feminist critic would see the differences between Fleur and traditional women like Pauline. Fleur Plays poker with men
Strong
Provides for herself
Controlling
seeks Revenge Pauline Lustful
Lies
Powerless Who, Why, What! Who: Anyone interested in Native American history especially with the impact of Western Culture.
Why: The book describes one Native American's town struggling with an unwanted change.
What are obstacles to reading this book? Understanding the time period was difficult and sifting through the narrators unreliable information. THE END Fleur's REVENGE! Pauline's Jealousy...
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