Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Love Medicine can help.

Gordie Kashpaw Character Analysis

Marie and Nector’s son, June’s husband, and King’s father. Gordie is an alcoholic who falls off the wagon not long after June’s death as a means of coping with his guilt over the lifelong abuse he subjected her to. Gordie’s ill treatment of June began when they were just children, when he tried to hang her from a tree during a game of cowboys and Indians, and this abuse continued into their adulthood and marriage. Gordie seems determined to drink himself to death, and he indeed succeeds, but not before he finally accepts responsibility for the role he played in June’s death. While Gordie is not directly responsible for June’s death, his abusive behavior is in large part what drives her away from the reservation in the first place, where she dies of exposure during a snowstorm. Gordie finally accepts responsibility for his role in June’s death after striking a deer with his car. He thinks the deer’s hide may earn him a bottle or two of liquor on the reservation, so he loads it into his car. The deer, however, isn’t dead, merely stunned, and Gordie is forced to bludgeon it to death with a tire iron. In the throes of acute alcohol withdrawal, Gordie hallucinates and believes he has instead killed June, and he goes to the Sacred Heart Convent to confess. During this hallucination and subsequent confession, Gordie finally admits his abusive behavior and seeks forgiveness for June’s death, and then promptly resumes drinking himself to death. He later shows up at his mother, Marie’s, and when she doesn’t have any liquor in the house, he drinks Lysol (a chemical-laden disinfectant) out of desperation for the alcohol content. Like his son, King, Gordie’s character underscores the ugly truth of domestic violence. As Gordie’s son grows up watching his father abuse his mother, King likewise abuses his own wife, Lynette, which implies that domestic abuse often runs in families and is repeated from generation to generation.

Gordie Kashpaw Quotes in Love Medicine

The Love Medicine quotes below are all either spoken by Gordie Kashpaw or refer to Gordie Kashpaw. 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:
Crown of Thorns Quotes

Her look was black and endless and melting pure. She looked through him. She saw into the troubled thrashing woods of him, a rattling thicket of bones. She saw how he’d woven his own crown of thorns. She saw how although he was not worthy he’d jammed this relief on his brow. Her eyes stared into some hidden place but blocked him out. Flat black. He did not understand what he was going to do. He bent, out of her gaze, and groped beneath the front seat for the tire iron, a flat-edged crowbar thick as a child’s wrist.

Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Love Medicine LitChart as a printable PDF.
Love Medicine PDF

Gordie Kashpaw Character Timeline in Love Medicine

The timeline below shows where the character Gordie Kashpaw appears in Love Medicine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 1
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...good, and no one is really expecting her back on the reservation. Plus, June’s ex-husband, Gordie, would always send her money if she really needs it. “Ahhhhh,” June says out loud,... (full context)
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 2
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...the reservation long ago. June was raised by Albertine’s great-uncle Eli, and then June married Gordie, her cousin and brother for all intents and purposes. Marie had been so angry when... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...her purse, and she talked to Albertine like an adult, not a kid. June and Gordie’s marriage was always rocky, and she frequently ran off. She worked odd jobs, and even... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...told Albertine things she probably shouldn’t have when Albertine was a child, like how Uncle Gordie had often hit her with the “flat of his hand.” Gordie “hit me but good,”... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...violet bruised color,” and goes in the house to check on King, Jr. Moments later, Gordie Kashpaw pulls in the driveway in his old truck with Eli next to him. Gordie... (full context)
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 3
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...family “secret”—that Lipsha is June’s son, born during one of the many times June left Gordie—but Lipsha seems to know very little about his biological parents. As they sit around the... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...adjusts his hat, which reads: “World’s Greatest Fisherman.” He asks Eli for a cigarette, and Gordie, King’s father, says that King should have said “ciga swa.” Eli agrees. “You got to... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...keys!” King yells. Albertine runs outside, and finds Lynette has locked herself in the Firebird. Gordie runs from the front porch and embraces King, who falls to his knees and cries... (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... (full context)
The Beads Part 1
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...alone with the children. One day, Zelda runs into the house and tells Marie that Gordie and Aurelia are hanging June from a tree. Marie runs outside and hears June telling... (full context)
Crown of Thorns
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Gordie took his first drink in a long time about a month after June’s death, and... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Eli pushes an egg across the table at Gordie. It is six o’clock in the morning, but Gordie refuses to eat. Gordie picks up... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Days pass and the liquor is gone. Gordie manages to find a couple bottles of wine, but he knows he is too far... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Sitting in the house alone, the quiet gets to Gordie, so he switches on the television, turning the volume up loud. He flips on the... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Driving away from the house, Gordie is so relieved to be away from June that he forgets how sick he is.... (full context)
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Back at the car, Gordie can’t get the trunk open, so he is forced to cram the dead deer into... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
As Gordie continues to drive, his shaking worsens. He can feel it deep in his bones, and... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...the Sacred Heart Convent, Sister Mary Martin de Porres can’t sleep. She is startled by Gordie’s sudden presence at her window and can’t figure out what anyone would be doing sneaking... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Sister Mary asks Gordie where his wife is now, and he leads her out to the car. As Sister... (full context)
Love Medicine
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...isn’t another way to explain all the awful things Lipsha has seen growing up, like Gordie drinking himself to death and June being left to freeze to death on the side... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...seems to just know things, like if Lipsha has been drinking, and she once told Gordie never to ride in a car with any of Lamartine boys because she had a... (full context)
Resurrection
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Marie begins to ready the corn for boiling when she sees Gordie walking up to the house. He is obviously drunk, and his clothes, which used to... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
After a sleepless night, Marie can hear Gordie rummaging around in the kitchen. He is looking for the secret money she usually keeps... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...trees she had planted. She loses track of time and doesn’t think to check on Gordie until she smells a strong chemical odor. She goes inside and finds Gordie in her... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...grasp the axe handle in her lap, and she looks down the hall to see Gordie moving in the bedroom. He stumbles toward the kitchen and stands in the doorway. Marie... (full context)
Crossing the Water Part 2
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...wanted to marry her. The problem, of course, was that June was already married to Gordie and had a son, King. Before long, June was pregnant, and not long after her... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...to tell him because she loves him “like a son.” Now that both June and Gordie are dead and Gerry is in prison, Lulu felt it was time to tell the... (full context)