The Role Of Marie Lazarre Kashpaw In Love Medicine

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Shawnna Cabanday - Critical Response #4
In Louise Erdrich's novel, Love Medicine, the role and purpose that the character Marie Lazarre Kashpaw is trying to represent and to embrace is the Nokomis figure, an Ojibwe traditional character who portrays all that is love, maternal, and essentially feminine. However, to become the true Nokomis figure, Marie Lazarre must overcome a tumultuous change in learning to redefine her definition of love, learning how she is able to help others, and, more importantly, to manipulate the way in which she has been portrayed to the Ojibwe community. By telling the story of her characters through several perspectives, Erdrich is not only demonstrating the importance of Marie in her attempt to strengthen and rehabilitate …show more content…

According to Betty Friedan, women were considered as domestic caregivers with sole responsibility for home, children, and the worship of God, while men ‘brought home the bacon.’ Because women were caught up in their attempts to live a life of “true feminine fulfillment,” to American politician, Shirley Chisholm, there was this “unspoken assumption” that “[women] do not have executive ability, orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.” It is this tenacious stereotype of Western women to constantly emulate a feminine identity which marks the beginnings of Marie’s adolescence and her attempt at striving for an image representative of purity, morality, and the Nokomis figure by joining the convent. Although her decision to go up “on the hill with the black robe women” and to become a nun was more based on the desire to be worshipped and treated “as a saint,” as giving herself up to pledge her pureness for God under certain vows is the ultimate expression of purity. Marie figures that by “going up there to pray as good as [the nuns] could,” she would be able to erase the “pure and wideness of [her] ignorance,” her image as the “dirty Lazarre,” and …show more content…

In a way it is like a cyclic recurrence where she finds that she must transform the image of herself yet again for she is not fulfilled by her own role as a woman. By becoming a biological mother for five children and a mother substitute to numerous others not her own, Marie Lazarre begins to encompass this maternal ideal, a person that has adopted the “mystique of feminine fulfillment [...], the cherished and self-perpetuating core of contemporary American culture.” We witness Marie’s capacity, resilience, and strength to fulfill the role of Nokomis and the stereotypical woman during the birth of her first born son, Gordie. Marie movingly depicts the pain that she suffered during labor, describing the contractions as if she was allowing her “body to be driven by waves, like a boat to shore, like someone swimming toward a very small light.” And it is after the birth of her son that we observe this connection between her mother in that they “shared the same boat, where [Marie] had labored.” At the core of Erdrich’s novel is this underlying connection and sense of the extended family that exists in the Ojibwe community. These family units, consisting not only of parents and children but also those of other close relations

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