Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

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Cars Symbol Icon

Cars are repeatedly mentioned throughout Love Medicine, and they represent the deep connection between family members, as well as the assimilation of indigenous people by white America within the novel. After June’s death, King buys a brand new Firebird with her insurance money. King loves the new car, and for him, the Firebird represents his connection to this mother, June, after her death. Additionally, Lyman and Henry, Jr. purchase a red Oldsmobile convertible together, and they bond as brothers over a long-distance drive to Alaska. After Henry, Jr. is sent to Vietnam and returns a scarred and broken man, Lyman and Henry, Jr. work on the Oldsmobile together in another instance of bonding, in which Lyman hopes Henry, Jr. will talk more openly about the trauma he has suffered. Even Nector and Lulu rekindle their love and are reconnected in Lulu’s luxury sedan when they deliver the surplus butter around the reservation in the comfort of Lulu’s air conditioning.

Cars within Love Medicine are a product of the new technology brought to America by European settlers, yet cars remain an important part of the lives of the Native American characters and the connections shared between family and tribal members. At the novel’s end, Lipsha cheats at cards and wins the Firebird that King bought with June’s insurance money, and suddenly, King’s connection to June becomes Lipsha’s connection to June, which has been lacking in his life since birth. Lipsha drives his new car home, in essence bringing June home as well, and for the first time has a relationship of sorts with his mother.

Cars Quotes in Love Medicine

The Love Medicine quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cars. 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 Red Convertible Quotes

One night Henry was off somewhere. I took myself a hammer. I went out to that car and 1 did a number on its underside. Whacked it up. Bent the tail pipe double. Ripped the muffler loose. By the time 1 was done with the car it looked worse than any typical Indian car that has been driven all its life on reservation roads, which they always say are like government promises—full of holes. It just about hurt me. I’ll tell you that! I threw dirt in the carburetor and I ripped all the electric tape off the seats. I made it look just as beat-up as I could. Then I sat back and waited for Henry to find it.

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine (speaker), Henry Lamartine, Jr.
Related Symbols: Cars
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Crossing the Water Part 4 Quotes

I still had Grandma’s hankie in my pocket. The sun flared. I’d heard that this river was the last of an ancient ocean, miles deep, that once had covered the Dakotas and solved all our problems. It was easy to still imagine us beneath them vast unreasonable waves, but the truth is we live on dry land. I got inside. The morning was clear. A good road led on. So there was nothing to do but cross the water and bring her home.

Related Symbols: Cars
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Love Medicine LitChart as a printable PDF.
Love Medicine PDF

Cars Symbol Timeline in Love Medicine

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cars appears in Love Medicine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 2
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 out that Zelda has always worked. Suddenly,... (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... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...have really hanged June, but Zelda doesn’t seem so sure. Marie remembers that June wasn’t scared in the least, and she had made sure everyone knew it. Outside, King revs the... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
When King finally comes back, it is nearly dark. Lynette gets out of the car, her eyes “watery and red.” She adjusts her blouse, which is a “dark violet bruised... (full context)
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 3
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...the 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... (full context)
The Plunge of the Brave
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...but he would need air conditioning. Just then, Lulu drove by in her fancy custom car. Nector yelled to her, asking if her car had AC, and she agreed to help... (full context)
The Red Convertible
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Lyman Lamartine was the first to own a convertible on the reservation. He had bought it together with his brother, Henry, Jr. Lyman has... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lyman wasted much of the money, and then he saw the car. He was on a ride up to Winnipeg with Henry, and in Lyman’s pocket was... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...Henry saw a Native American girl hitchhiking. They pulled up alongside of her in the Oldsmobile and told her to get in. They asked her where she was headed, and when... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lyman writes Henry many letters while he is in Vietnam and tells him about the convertible, which he keeps in the yard up on blocks. Lyman is lucky and is never... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Lyman looks out to the Oldsmobile and knows exactly what to do. He takes a hammer and smashes the tail pipe... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Henry and Lyman get into the Oldsmobile and head toward the Red River. Henry wants to see the high water, he says,... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...pulls himself out of the water, the sun has already set. He goes to the Oldsmobile, turns on the high beams, and drives it higher up the river’s bank. Putting the... (full context)
Crown of Thorns
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...to concentrate. Gordie hasn’t gone far when a deer runs out in front of his car. He takes it square in the hood and gets out to assess the damage. The... (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... (full context)
Crossing the Water Part 3
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Gerry throws down the cards and tells King to deal him in, but they must decide what they will play... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...Gerry is not there, they apologize to King and leave. Lipsha asks King for the car’s registration, and Lynette digs in a drawer for the paper, puts it in front of... (full context)
Crossing the Water Part 4
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Lipsha goes out to the Firebird. One headlight is pointing toward the sky, and there are already dents and nicks in... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lipsha opens the trunk of the Firebird and Gerry Nanapush jumps out. He gets in the front seat, and Lipsha continues to... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...border and shake hands. Gerry walks off into the darkness, and Lipsha turns off the Firebird’s lights, driving in darkness, until he arrives at the bridge crossing the boundary river near... (full context)