Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

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Love Medicine: Scales Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Albertine is on her third or fourth drink sitting at a bar with Gerry Nanapush and Dot Adare. Gerry hasn’t had a drink in 13 years, and he sits at the bar with a tonic water. He is 35 years old and has been in and out of prison for most of his life. Albertine first met Dot in a bar just like this one, and it was through Gerry, too. At that time, Gerry had just broken out of prison, and since he was famous on the reservation, Albertine decided to find him.
Gerry Nanapush is famous on the reservation because he is constantly breaking out of prison. Lulu frequently claims that there is no way to cage a Nanapush, which in itself is a form of resistance to white governmental control and oppression. Gerry doesn’t believe in white laws, only justice, and there is little justice in Gerry’s imprisonment.
Themes
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Albertine found Gerry at a nearby bar, so she sat next to him and starting talking. Then Dot came in, at least six months pregnant, and threatened to “bend [Albertine] out of shape.” She charged Albertine, but Gerry caught her mid-run, allowing Albertine a chance to run away. The next day, Albertine reported for her first day of work at a local construction site and discovered the only other woman on the job was Dot Adare.
Like many of the women in Love Medicine, Dot is incredibly strong and does not adhere to popular stereotype of femininity and womanhood. Society expects women to be restrained and weak, but Dot is aggressive and strong, and she will engage in a fistfight even if she is six months pregnant.
Themes
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 her by the coffee truck. Albertine sized Dot up and quickly realized she could never overpower her. Plus, she was very pregnant. Albertine tried to explain that she wasn’t after Gerry, but Dot only appeared to get more upset. Finding no other option, Albertine threw her coffee in Dot’s face and took off running. Later that afternoon, Dot appeared out the door of the weigh shack where she worked, looked at Albertine, and threw her arms in the air. “Okay then!” Dot yelled. As she turned back to the weigh shack, Albertine could see that Dot was laughing.
Albertine stands up to Dot and won’t be bullied by her, which makes Albertine yet another example of a powerful woman in Erdrich’s novel. Dot appreciates and respects Albertine’s display of power, even if she is on the receiving end of it. Like Dot, Albertine won’t be pushed around, and the two women spark a meaningful, if unexpected, friendship based on this common trait.
Themes
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Dot’s baby had been conceived in the visiting room during Gerry’s last prison stay. She sat on his lap in the crowded room, and they somehow managed to do the deed through a hole in Dot’s pantyhose and a rip in Gerry’s coveralls. Not long after that, Gerry broke out of prison. Gerry was constantly breaking out of prison and getting caught again, and most of the time he spent there had nothing whatsoever to do with his original crime. Still, Gerry was pretty good at breaking out, and he once even slipped through a prison wall greased up with lard.
Gerry was initially sent to prison for a bar fight—a minor crime—but he has been breaking out ever since, which has seriously added time to his sentence. Law enforcement paints Gerry as a dangerous criminal, which Erdrich implies is due to Gerry’s race, but he is exactly the opposite. Gerry is depicted as a decent man who is merely the victim of circumstance and a racist legal system.
Themes
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
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Each time he broke out, Gerry would go back to Dot and hide in her trailer. Gerry always said he “believed in justice, not laws,” and since he had already paid for his original crime—a bar brawl with a racist man who insulted him—Gerry would not concede to go back to prison. Now, with Gerry hidden in her trailer, Dot is angry at him for making her go through most of her pregnancy alone, but she loves him deeply and can’t turn him away.
Gerry and Dot are also evidence of the power of love, or “love medicine,” as it is known in the novel. Their love survives years of prison, and Gerry is constantly trying to make his way back to her.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
One day in October, Dot arrives 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 door. He squeezes into Dot’s compact car and they head for the hospital. Days pass and Albertine hears nothing from Dot or Gerry. It is already a week after Dot’s due date, and she is anxious for news. Suddenly Gerry pulls up on an old motorcycle. He tells Albertine that Dot is asking for her, and she climbs on the back.
Gerry has a knack for breaking out of prison and showing up at the exact right time, as he does here when Dot goes into labor, and at the end of the book when he shows up at King’s apartment in Minneapolis. Gerry’s sudden appearance also speaks to the love he has for Dot—he seems to inherently know when she needs him.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Gerry and Albertine arrive at Saint Adalbert’s Hospital, where they go directly to the waiting room. Gerry is allowed to see Dot, and he is gone for nearly 30 minutes. He comes back to the waiting room and sits silently for a minute, then he stands up. He tells Albertine that he is going out for cigars, and Albertine thinks about the time Dot told her that Gerry went out for a roll of toilet paper and was gone for eight months. Albertine is just about to tell Gerry that it is okay to run, when two local cops come through the door. Gerry looks at them and back to Albertine, and then he runs to a back window, jumping three stories to the ground below.
Saint Adalbert, for whom the hospital is named, is further evidence of how widespread Christianity is in American society, but the story of Saint Adalbert also lends increased insight into the story. Adalbert of Prague was sainted around the year 999 due to his efforts to convert Baltic Prussians, the indigenous people of the Baltic region, to Christianity, just as white settlers have converted large numbers of Native Americans to Christianity.
Themes
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God and Religion  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 a wheelie, and race down the street. Two weeks later, Dot comes back to work at the weigh shack, along with her newborn daughter. A few weeks later, Albertine and Dot hear that Gerry had been caught by the police down on the Pine Ridge reservation. There are plenty of guns on that reservation, so when federal agents stormed the place, Gerry pulled a gun. He shot and killed one of the cops, a state trooper according to the local paper, and has been sent to a prison in Illinois.
Like Lulu, Gerry is presented almost as if he possesses some kind of magic superpower, as he is easily able to elude capture, escapes prison again and again, and also seems to innately know when Dot needs him. Lipsha is deeply bothered when he finds out that his father, Gerry, is accused of killing a man. Gerry, however, never admits to the crime and instead claims that it doesn’t matter if he did it or not. Gerry will still be guilty, and he will still be imprisoned because his racist society is more comfortable if Gerry is locked up.
Themes
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