Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

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Love Medicine: Lulu’s Boys Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the last day that Lulu is Henry Lamartine’s widow, she sits drinking beer with Henry’s brother, Beverly. Beverly is a large man with huge muscles bursting from everywhere. As he has a rather feminine name, Beverly has always nipped any snide remarks in the bud by being big and intimidating. His arms are covered in tattoos, just as Henry’s had been, and Lulu is reminded of her late husband as she stares at Beverly. She knows he has a tattoo of a bird, and when he flexes his arm, it appears to be flying.
Beverly represents Henry in Lulu’s eyes—he looks like Henry, shares the same genes, and even has the same tattoos—which undoubtedly influence Lulu’s feelings for Beverly.
Themes
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Lulu hasn’t seen Beverly since Henry’s funeral seven years ago. Henry died in a car crash after driving drunk onto the train tracks and getting struck by a train. “She comes barreling through, you’ll never see me again,” Henry had said before he died. Others had thought he was talking about Lulu, but she never complained about his drinking or anything, so it was pretty clear he had been talking about the train.
This passage makes it clear that Henry committed suicide, although his exact reasons for doing so are never revealed. Elsewhere, Marie implies he did it because Lulu frequently cheated on him and had other men’s children, while Lulu holds that their relationship was happy despite her infidelity. Lulu also implies that Henry was deeply upset about government interference in their Native lifestyle, which suggests oppression may have, at least in part, fueled Henry’s decision to end his life.
Themes
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lulu has always been known as a “flirt,” and many people in town say terrible things about her. She has eight sons; her three oldest are Nanapushes, although they have her maiden name; the middle sons are Morrisseys, but they are each named Lamartine; and the youngest Lamartines are each red-headed or blond, and they look nothing like their brothers. The youngest, Henry, Jr., was born just nine months after Henry’s death, but Beverly is certain the boy is his, and he has come to take him home.
Lulu has quite the reputation on the reservation for being sexually promiscuous, and she is seriously disrespected within her community because of it. Lulu is demonized because of her behavior, yet the men who have sex with her and father her children are never mentioned, which again illustrates the oppression of women in the novel. None of Lulu’s sons have the same father, and none of them actually belong to her late husband, Henry Lamartine.
Themes
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Beverly lives in the Twin Cities, where there are plenty of opportunities for Native Americans. He has made a decent living for the last 18 years selling after-school study books door to door, and he is the best salesman in the entire area. The secret to Beverly’s success is a picture of Henry, Jr., which he shows to his customers. He creates elaborate stories about his son, Junior, who plays baseball and has better marks than anyone else in his class on account of his father’s after-school study guides. Each night, Beverly goes home to his wife, Elsa. Elsa has never much wanted children, but Beverly “adores” her, and he is hoping that she will help raise his son.
Beverly claims to “adore” Elsa, and he does appear to love her, but it is later revealed that he marries Lulu behind Elsa’s back. Beverly’s secret marriage to Lulu is similar to Nector’s affair with Lulu. Both men undeniably love their wives, but they both have a history with Lulu (and they have both fathered one of her sons) that they can’t deny or ignore. In this way, Erdrich implies that love is complicated and often painful, and at times is not confined to one person as expected in white, European culture.
Themes
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
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Sitting across from Lulu in her kitchen, Beverly can’t believe how long it has been since Henry’s death. He looks around Lulu’s immaculate house. Even with eight sons, Lulu’s house is always spotless. He asks her if she remembers playing strip poker with him and Henry before she and Henry were married. Lulu laughs and tells Beverly that after she took his shorts with a pair of twos, she knew who she wanted to marry. Some men “react” in such circumstances, Lulus says, and she had been looking for such a “reaction.” Beverly is quiet. Lulu got a “reaction” when she wanted it, he thinks to himself.
This passage implies that Lulu was looking for one of the men to get an erection during the game, and since Beverly did not, Lulu decided to marry Henry instead. Clearly, sex is an important part of Lulu’s life—which disrupts popular stereotypes of women as restrained and demure—and she bases her relationships, at least in part, on sexual attraction and prowess. Beverly resents this; Lulu has his son, so he is obviously competent sexually. But Lulu seems to be looking for a certain openness to sex that she didn’t immediately think Beverly had.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Henry, Jr. comes in and asks Beverly to make his bird tattoo fly. Beverly rolls up his sleeve and flexes his arm, creating the illusion of a bird in flight. The boy runs back outside, and Beverly can hear gunshots. The older boys are teaching him to shoot, Lulu says. Lulu’s boys are like “a kind of pack” They are always together, like they have “one soul” or belong to same “organism.” Beverly watches as the older boys fuss over Henry, Jr., helping his aim and shoot the rifle, and he knows nothing will ever come between them.
The language used to describe Lulu’s boys—they are a “pack” or “organism” with “one soul”—underscores the importance of family connections in Native culture, yet the fact that Lulu’s boys each have different fathers suggests that this connection does not need to adhere to traditional notions of a nuclear family to be strong. Beverly knows that he can’t separate Henry, Jr. from his brothers, which, incidentally, illustrates why residential schools were so successful in assimilating indigenous people: they separated Native children from their families and their shared experiences.
Themes
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
By that evening, Beverly has completely abandoned his plans to take Henry, Jr. back to Minneapolis. Beverly watches Lulu as she readies dinner for her boys. She is so efficient and skilled that the meal seems to make itself, and she makes quick work of the mess as well. Beverly thinks of the night he and Lulu shared seven years ago, and before he knows it, he has fallen in love with Lulu. She finishes her work and goes to her bedroom, leaving the door open a crack. Beverly thinks about Elsa and his life back in Minneapolis. He loves Elsa and his life in the city, but he slips quietly into Lulu’s bedroom anyway.
Later in the novel, Lipsha refers to Lulu as a jiibay (Ojibwe) witch, who has special, magical powers. These magical powers are reflected here as well, as food seems to appear out of thin air and the mess cleans itself. These perceived superpowers are more evidence of Lulu’s strength as a woman. Ironically, Rushes Bear implied earlier that Lulu wasn’t any good at domestic work, but Lulu is clearly competent and manages eight boys by herself, which seems a near-impossible task.
Themes
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon