Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Love Medicine can help.

Love Medicine: Wild Geese Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Every Friday, Nector and Eli build a hunting blind and wait for geese to land. One particular summer Friday, after shooting two geese, Nector goes into town to sell them. He is a handsome young man, and he can have any girl on the reservation that he wants, but he has his heart set on Lulu Nanapush. Nector thinks about Lulu as he walks and doesn’t even notice Marie as she barrels down the hill, coming from the direction of the Sacred Heart Convent. She is carrying a pillowcase that has the convent’s monogram, and Nector assumes she has stolen it. After all, Nector thinks, she is a Lazarre, “a family of horse-thieving drunks,” and it is just the sort of thing she would do.
Nector’s opinion of Marie’s family relies on popular Native American stereotypes. Nector assumes Marie’s family members are all alcoholics, and he also assumes they are “horse-thieves,” which harkens to early days of westward expansion and Native Americans stealing the white settlers’ horses. Marie’s family clearly has not been stealing horses—they all drive cars—but Nector means to insult Marie’s family by implying they are typical Native Americans and no good.
Themes
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Nector stops Marie, holding her by the arm. “Lemme go, you damn Indian,” Marie snaps. “You stink to hell!” Nector laughs. Marie is “just a skinny white girl,” and she is nothing compared to the Kashpaws. Suddenly, Nector loses his balance and falls on top of Marie, dead geese and all, tearing her shirt in the process. Marie begins to struggle, but Nector refuses to get up. He demands that she give him the pillowcase. She shouldn’t have stolen it, he says, and Marie begins to laugh.
Marie, who has little Chippewa blood, denies her Native ancestry for much of the novel, and her shame related to her heritage can be seen in her insults to Nector. Nector sees Marie as a “white girl” but still uses racist language and stereotypes to insult her, which again reflects the racism undergirding American society. Here, Nector restrains Marie against her will and even ignores her pleas to get up. In this way, Nector shows very little respect for Marie, and women in general, as he assumes a position of power over her and disregards her voice.
Themes
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Nector is infuriated that Marie is laughing at him, and he strikes her across the mouth. Marie grabs her face and looks hatefully at Nector, but he begins to act strangely. He reaches up and gently touches Marie’s face, and in that one moment, Nector falls in love. All of a sudden, Nector realizes that they are out in the open and in view of anyone who is watching. Nector rolls off of Marie and gets up. For the first time, Nector notices Marie’s bandaged hand and head and thinks that she must be in great pain. He hands her the dead geese. Marie can take them home, Nector says. 
Geese, which mate for life, are symbolic of love and long-term commitment in the novel, and here the geese seem to have a mysterious effect, as Nector instantly falls in love with Marie. Nector’s disregard for Marie as a woman continues here when he slaps her for laughing at him. Nector is emasculated when Marie laughs in his face, and he recovers that lost power by physically assaulting her. Marie’s hate and resistance is more evidence of her strength; she won’t succumb to Nector’s abuse, even if he does physically overpower her.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon