Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

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Albertine Johnson Character Analysis

Zelda’s daughter, Marie and Nector’s granddaughter, and cousin to Lipsha and King. Albertine first hears about her Aunt June’s death weeks after she was buried. Albertine is away from the reservation studying nursing, and her mother didn’t think Albertine had time to attend the funeral because of the demands of her schooling. Albertine and Zelda have a strained relationship, and even though Albertine has no desire to see her mother, she decides to go home to the reservation. At her family’s home, Albertine’s female relatives burden her with numerous domestic chores, and Zelda makes snide comments about Albertine’s aversion to marriage and her desire to be a “career girl.” Albertine resents the narrowly defined role of women within her Native American culture, and she rejects the gendered role that is forced upon her. Albertine is independent and outspoken, and she even quits nursing school to study medicine, since being a nurse is “not enough for her.” Like the cooking and laundry her mother and grandmother expect of her, Albertine sees nursing as a traditionally female role, so she rejects it in lieu of becoming a doctor, a profession that has long been dominated by men. Albertine’s character serves to upend popular gender stereotypes, such as women being dependent and incompetent, and underscores Erdrich’s argument that women are just as capable as men.

Albertine Johnson Quotes in Love Medicine

The Love Medicine quotes below are all either spoken by Albertine Johnson or refer to Albertine Johnson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Love Medicine published in 2016.
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 2 Quotes

Far from home, living in a white woman’s basement, that letter made me feel buried, too. I opened the envelope and read the words. I was sitting at my linoleum table with my textbook spread out to the section on “Patient Abuse.” There were two ways you could think of that title. One was obvious to a nursing student, and the other was obvious to a Kashpaw. Between my mother and myself the abuse was slow and tedious, requiring long periods of dormancy, living in the blood like hepatitis. When it broke out it was almost a relief.

Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

She had let the government put Nector in school but hidden Eli, the one she couldn’t part with, in the root cellar dug beneath her floor. In that way she gained a son on either side of the line. Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods. Now, these many years later, hard to tell why or how, my great-uncle Eli was still sharp, while Grandpa’s mind had left us, gone wary and wild.

Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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Albertine Johnson Character Timeline in Love Medicine

The timeline below shows where the character Albertine Johnson appears in Love Medicine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 2
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
 Weeks later, Albertine Johnson opens a letter from her mother, Zelda. Albertine’s Aunt June has passed away, Zelda... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...even Eli, who was always “crazy about his little girl,” admitted it. Despite this, however, Albertine thinks June was the best aunt. June always had gum in her purse, and she... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Albertine is furious with Zelda for not telling her sooner about June’s death. Albertine thinks that... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...lives on the very edge of the reservation with her new husband, but the land Albertine grew up on belongs to her grandparents, Marie and Nector, and it was allotted to... (full context)
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Arriving at the main house, Albertine enters the kitchen and finds Aurelia and Zelda busy cooking. They welcome Albertine warmly without... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Zelda stops working. She asks Albertine if she plans on being “a career girl.” Why not? Albertine asks her mother, pointing... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
As everyone files out of King’s car, Albertine marvels at how old her grandfather, Nector, looks.  Albertine watches Lynette climb out of the... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...once to meet with the government there, but that man is long gone now. As Albertine watches her grandfather discover his childhood home again for the first time, she thinks about... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...up Eli, but both Zelda and Aurelia know Eli won’t ride in the car. Confused, Albertine asks why. June’s death has been deemed of natural causes, so her insurance money paid... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...looks to her sister, exasperated. Who cares if Lynette is white, Aurelia says. After all, Albertine’s father, Swede, was white, too. “My girl’s an Indian,” Zelda says. Aurelia nods, agreeing completely. (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...see it before it gets too dark. As the women leave, Marie stops and tells Albertine to hang the laundry and keep an eye on things. There is plenty of food... (full context)
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 3
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
As Albertine visits with her family, Lipsha Morrissey arrives. Lipsha was raised by Marie and is always... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Later, after both Lynette and King have left the table, Albertine hears shouting outside. “Bitch! Bitch! I’ll kill you! Gimme the keys!” King yells. Albertine runs... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
After Gordie calms King down, Albertine and Lipsha sit outside, looking up at the Northern Lights. Albertine has been wanting to... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Suddenly, Lipsha and Albertine hear a loud commotion from inside the house. Albertine runs inside and finds King drowning... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Albertine looks past King, to the counter where the pies are cooling. They are destroyed. Albertine... (full context)
A Bridge
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Albertine Johnson is 15 years old and is running away from home. She rides the cramped... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
A man suddenly appears, and he seems to be just what Albertine is looking for, and while she doesn’t know it, she is just what the man... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...detector at the airport. He turns to face the girl and learns that she is Albertine Johnson, one of the Kashpaws from back home on the reservation. Albertine knows him as... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Henry and Albertine find a bar and drink for most of the evening, and then they find a... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Albertine comes out of the bathroom, and Henry asks her if she wants to go to... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
The next morning, Albertine wakes up and is unsure of where she is, but then she feels the ache... (full context)
Scales
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Albertine is on her third or fourth drink sitting at a bar with Gerry Nanapush and... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Albertine found Gerry at a nearby bar, so she sat next to him and starting talking.... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Dot glared at Albertine for most of the day, but Albertine wasn’t convinced Dot recognized her until Dot cornered... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...to work at the weigh shack with what she thinks are labor pains. She tells Albertine that Gerry better hurry up and get there, and moments later he appears at the... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Gerry and Albertine arrive at Saint Adalbert’s Hospital, where they go directly to the waiting room. Gerry is... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Outside, Gerry lands on the police car, caving in the entire hood. Albertine makes it outside just in time to see Gerry jump on the old motorcycle, pop... (full context)
Love Medicine
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Over the next days, the entire family comes home to bury Nector. Even Albertine has come home despite being very busy with her studies. She has recently quit nursing... (full context)