Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

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Zelda Kashpaw Character Analysis

Nector and Marie’s daughter, Albertine’s mother, and sister to Aurelia and Gordie. As a young girl, Zelda considers joining the Sacred Heart Convent, but she instead marries Swede Johnson, a white man from off-reservation, and soon gives birth to Albertine. After Albertine’s birth, Swede joins the army but goes AWOL during boot camp and never comes back. Zelda raises Albertine alone in a trailer on the edge of her family’s reservation land and keeps the books for the priests and nuns at the convent. Zelda is a deeply devout Catholic, and when she asks Albertine if she has met any “marriageable boys,” Albertine knows that Zelda really means Catholic boys. Zelda is a proud Ojibwe woman, and even though Albertine’s father is white, she insists that her daughter “is an Indian.” Albertine and Zelda have a strained and difficult relationship, but they value and love each other nonetheless, which underscores Erdrich’s primary argument of the importance of family within Native American culture.

Zelda Kashpaw Quotes in Love Medicine

The Love Medicine quotes below are all either spoken by Zelda Kashpaw or refer to Zelda 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:
Get the entire Love Medicine LitChart as a printable PDF.
Love Medicine PDF

Zelda Kashpaw Character Timeline in Love Medicine

The timeline below shows where the character Zelda Kashpaw 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 writes, but they knew that Albertine wouldn’t have... (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 her mother should have... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Zelda lives on the very edge of the reservation with her new husband, but the land... (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 stopping their work, and Zelda hands her a... (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?... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...a ham from a can and, gently patting it, places it carefully in the oven. Zelda and Aurelia smile; they can remember when they had to trade for meat or slaughter... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Aurelia claims they never would have really hanged June, but Zelda doesn’t seem so sure. Marie remembers that June wasn’t scared in the least, and she... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Hours later, Zelda wonders where King and Eli are. They are probably out joyriding, she says, remarking again... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
June’s gravestone has just recently been erected, and Zelda, Aurelia, and Marie want to go see it before it gets too dark. As the... (full context)
The Beads Part 1
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...Now, he is hardly home, and Marie is left alone with the children. One day, Zelda runs into the house and tells Marie that Gordie and Aurelia are hanging June from... (full context)
Flesh and Blood
God and Religion  Theme Icon
...badly wants to hate Leopolda, she decides to go visit her anyway, and she takes Zelda along with her.  (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...dress made of purple wool and sets out to the convent with an impeccably dressed Zelda. The day is hot and dry, but Marie won’t let herself sweat in her good... (full context)
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Marie and Zelda arrive at the Sacred Heart Convent and are greeted by a pleasant nun. They are... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
...“I suppose you had brats with the Indian,” Sister Leopolda continues, and Marie points to Zelda and her neat appearance. Leopolda is not impressed and claims Zelda looks just like Marie.... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...and Marie devises a secret plan to snatch the spoon while Leopolda is busy blessing Zelda. But when Leopolda blesses Zelda, she holds the spoon close, and Marie isn’t able to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
On the walk back home, Zelda tells Marie that she is considering joining the Sacred Heart Convent. Marie listens to her... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...letter and puts it in the pocket of her dress. She isn’t even sure if Zelda read the letter or not. Strangely, Marie isn’t angry, and she is quite convinced that... (full context)
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Marie decides to peel some potatoes for dinner. Zelda usually helps her, but she isn’t around, and Marie suspects she has gone to find... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...wondering “salt or sugar?” for the rest of his life. Suddenly, Marie hears Nector and Zelda outside, and then Nector appears in the doorway to the kitchen. “I just put the... (full context)