One of the richest and most fully drawn characters found in Louis Erdrich’s Love Medicine is Lulu Lamartine. While other people on the reservation may see Lulu as a ‘loose woman,’ who will bed any man who comes along, she is clearly self-accepting and without shame for the woman that she is—mother to 8 sons by different fathers. What is the source of Lulu’s loving ways, and why is she willing to embrace “the whole world and all that lived in its rainy arms?”
ANSWER TO THE QUESTION
Louis Erdrich’s Love Medicine
Louis Erdrich’s Love Medicine details the lives of the residents of a small Chippewa group who reside in a reserve in North Dakota. The novel documents their lives over fifty years and it examines the love triangle involving Nector Kashpaw, his mistress Lulu Lamartine, and his wife Marie. As the book progresses, the characters get entangled in a power struggle that reveals a feminist supremacy. The male protagonist is split between the two women, while the women themselves seem to know that their power is rooted in their homes. The medicine woman, Lulu enjoys a robust relationship with her home. The source of Lulu’s loving ways is her unwavering adherence to her identity as she is depicted as a woman who is at peace with the forces of nature.
Lulu is portrayed as a strong woman, and the author writes, “Lamartine was about half the considerable size of Grandma, but you would never think of sizes anyway… Lamartine was jacked up, latticed, shuttered and vinyl sided, while Grandma sagged and bulged on her slipped foundations and let her hair go the silver gray of rain-dried lumber” (Erdrich 196). Lulu’s loving ways can be attributed to her acceptance of the world, she believes that everything on earth is interconnected spiritually. She states, “I was in love with the whole world and all that lived in its rainy arms. Sometimes I´d look out on my yard and the green leaves would be glowing. I´d see the oil slick on the wing of a grackle” (Erdrich 216).
Lulu Lamartine’s character constantly undergoes rebirths, and this is typified by the relationships she enjoys with the men in her life. She embraces the whole world because she enjoys a form of control over everyone around her. By exercising a sort of power over the men, Lulu is presented as a woman who controls her destiny. She is the glue that holds her society together, which she achieves by disregarding all physical boundaries. Her bond with the society is based on motherhood, and she is genuinely passionate about the people around her. Lulu’s interactions with Moses Pillager have a profound effect on her personality. After cutting ties with him, she fills herself with love medicine to deal with her inexorable gloom.
Although Erdrich presents Lulu Lamartine as a somewhat selfish character who is unable to control her lust for men, she is viewed as a maternal figure, and this makes her appear as a loving person who is always available. Lulu has a motherly quality which prompts her to altruistically care for others. She risks her life to rescue her child Lyman from a burning house without thinking of the risk she was placing upon herself. The pays a price for her actions during the incident as the fire scars her and she remains bald for the rest of her life. Although Lulu exhibited wild tendencies, she admits that she “loved what she saw.” Her love for everyone made her treat her children well, and she appreciated the positive impact that they had in her life. Even when she is regarded as a “Shameless man-chaser,” Lulu dispels the belief that she is unable to care for her children by using everything in her power to care for and love her family. The woman’s loving ways can be attributed to her situation at home where she has to make sacrifices to ensure the prosperity of her family.
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