Love Medicine

Love Medicine


Louise Erdrich

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Themes and Colors
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Love Medicine, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Tribal Connection and Family Ties

Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine is a generational look at two Anishinaabe families, the Lamartines and the Kashpaws, and their lives on an unnamed Ojibwe reservation somewhere in North Dakota. Both families have deep ties to the reservation land, and Nector Kashpaw, the patriarch of the Kashpaw family, is a member of the local tribal government. Despite inhabiting the same land, the two families live seemingly separate lives on opposite ends of the reservation, due…

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Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism

While Love Medicine focuses on the Native American identities of the Kashpaws and the Lamartines, most of their Native culture has been lost to assimilation and the westward expansion of European colonialism. Both the Kashpaws and the Lamartines can trace their families back to the very beginning of their North Dakota reservation, when the government allotted each of the Native families small swaths of land—although this doesn’t mean that their lifestyles and families were left…

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God and Religion

Perhaps the most obvious evidence of Native Americans’ assimilation to white American culture in Love Medicine is the heavy presence of Christianity, especially Catholicism, within the novel. Catholic marriages are as common as traditional Ojibwe marriages in Love Medicine, and at the top of the highest hill of the novel’s unnamed North Dakota reservation sits the Sacred Heart Convent, a Catholic nunnery. The novel is littered with references to Christianity and Catholicism, and when…

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All of the characters in Love Medicine are motivated by love in some way, even when it works directly against their strongest desires. For example, Rushes Bear, who is married to both Nanapush and Kashpaw, has a rather volatile relationship with Nanapush, which is only made worse by her dislike for Lulu, Nanapush’s niece, whom he also raises. Rushes Bear tries to “punish” Nanapush by spending more time with Kashpaw, but she…

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Female Oppression and Strength

Despite being largely relegated to traditional domestic roles within Love Medicine, the Native American women in Louise Erdrich’s novel refuse to resign themselves to a social position that is inferior to that of men. Lulu Lamartine, for instance, won’t hide her nontraditional lifestyle, which includes multiple husbands and several affairs. Lulu has nine children from nearly as many men, and while others on the reservation try to brand her a whore, she absolutely…

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