Within us, like ice shards, their names bobbed and shifted. Then the slivers of ice began to collect and cover us. We became so heavy, weighted down with the lead, gray frost, that we could not move. Our hands lay on the table like cloudy blocks. The blood with us grew thick. We needed no food.
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Tracks is a novel by Louise Erdrich , published in It is the third in a tetralogy of novels beginning with Love Medicine that explores the interrelated lives of four Anishinaabe families living on an Indian reservation near the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota.
Within the saga, Tracks is earliest chronologically, providing the back-story of several characters such as Lulu Lamartine and Marie Kashpaw who become prominent in the other novels. As in many of her other novels, Erdrich employs the use of multiple first-person narratives to relate the events of the plot, alternating between Nanapush, a tribal patriarch, and Pauline, a young girl of mixed heritage. Tracks alternates between two narrators: Nanapush, a jovial tribal elder, and Pauline, a young girl of mixed heritage.
In Nanapush's chapters the point of view is that of Nanapush telling stories to his granddaughter, Lulu, several years after the main events in the novel occur. When Lulu was ten years old, her mother, Fleur Pillager, sent her away to a government school. Because of this, Lulu is now estranged from her mother.
Nanapush, therefore, narrates the story in attempt to reconcile mother and daughter by telling Lulu about the events between and that led Fleur to her decision.
Nanapush first meets Fleur in when he rescues her in the middle of winter and nurses her back to health from consumption — a recent epidemic among the Anishinaabe. Because of their shared grief at losing so many from their community, Nanapush and Fleur develop a friendship and begin to see one another as family.
The next year, Fleur goes to the nearby town of Argus and takes a job at a butcher's shop, where she meets Pauline Puyat — the novel's second narrator. After beating a group of men from the shop one night at a game of poker, Fleur is beaten and raped. She leaves town, but the next day a tornado strikes Argus.
Mysteriously, no one in town is harmed in the storm with the exception of the men who raped her — whose bodies are found locked in the freezer of the butcher shop, where they had taken refuge.
Fleur returns to her family home on the reservation, where she meets Eli Kashpaw while hunting in the woods one day.
Much to his mother's dismay, Eli falls in love with Fleur and moves in with her. Soon, Fleur begins to show signs that she is pregnant and, although the true paternity is unknown, Eli takes responsibility of the child as his own. A new family unit begins to form at the Pillager home — Fleur, Eli and their daughter, Lulu, as well as Eli's mother, Margaret, and her second son, Nector.
Throughout the novel, Margaret and Nanapush, whom Fleur regards as a father, also develop an intimate relationship. Together, the family faces trials of hunger, tribal conflict, and ultimately the loss of their land to the government. In the meantime, Pauline has also left Argus. She stays with a widow named Bernadette Morrissey, from whom she learns the art of tending the sick and dying. She stays in Argus and visits Nanapush and the family home as an unwanted guest.
Pauline serves as a midwife to Fleur during an early birth. She becomes increasingly jealous of Fleur and her relationship, and in an attempt to break them up, feeds a sort of love potion to Eli and a younger girl named Sophie, inducing them to copulate passionately in the forest. Claiming to have received a vision, she decides to join a convent , where she only delves further into obsession. She devotes herself to the cause of converting Fleur and the others, but is generally regarded as a nuisance.
She develops several unusual habits as a means of self-inflicting suffering to remind herself of Christ's suffering. Her behaviors are frowned upon by the superior nun, and she is eventually sent away to teach mathematics at a Catholic school. Pauline's narratives deal with her own personal story and also provide a second perspective on many of the same events described by Nanapush.
One major theme in Tracks is the tension between traditional Anishinaabe culture and beliefs and the Westernizing influence of white, Christian America. This clash can clearly be seen in the two characters of Fleur and Pauline; as Michelle R. Hessler writes, "Fleur upholds the traditions of her ancestors and attempts to save their land from the rapid advance of white civilization, whereas Pauline enters a cloister, denies her Native American heritage, and brings death and destruction to the reservation.
Contradictions, lies, and "double-voiced-ness" have also been identified as major themes in Tracks by some critics. As the plot unfolds, the narrator Nanapush is able to use his gift of speech to negotiate with government representatives on behalf of his people, but he often tells contradictory stories and even outright lies. Similarly, Pauline's narrative is unreliable and often contradictory.
Some critics view Nanapush as a reliable narrator. As critic Susan Stanford Friedman argues, "the novel overtly sets up a contrast between Nanapush as the reliable narrator who retains his Anishinabe religion and the unreliable narrator, the convert Pauline whose self-hatred takes the form of a denial of her Indian heritage and the adoption of a self-destructive Catholicism. Nanapush is a critical character in the tension between the Anishinaabe and the whites because of his trickster qualities and ability to navigate both sides of the conflict through talking.
Anishinaabe scholar Lawrence W. Gross points out that Nanapush's association with the mythical figure Nanabozho helps him to survive by enabling him to adapt white culture to his own traditions and interests, arguing that "it is the tricksters who survive to build a new world on the ashes of the old.
Maria DePriest also points out that, while Fleur is obviously the central character in the book, she does not get to narrate her own story.
Fleur must battle two fronts - not only the external conflict of white America that threatens to take away her ancestral land, but also internal betrayals from her own people — but her story is told at a distance by Nanapush and Pauline, both of whom are unreliable narrators.
Fleur has been described as "one of the most haunting presences in contemporary American literature",  and Tracks is also characterized by the theme of haunting.
Fleur is described as having mystical, shamanistic powers and at one point even travels to the spirit world to negotiate for the life of her second child. Several references are made to the manitou including Misshepeshu, the lake spirit who is said to be a guardian of the Pillager family and the windigo. For instance, in the first chapter of the novel, Nanapush describes his and Fleur's descent into grief at the loss of so many of their people to consumption, saying, "We had gone half windigo.
I learned later that this was common, that there were many of our people who died in this manner, of the invisible sickness. There were those who could not swallow another bite of food because the names of their dead anchored their tongues. Madness itself is also a motif in the novel — manifesting most notably in the characters of Pauline with her masochistic self-mortification methods and Fleur particularly following the death of her second child.
Beidler notes that madness is associated with the characters' emotional distress at the destruction of their environment by the white logging company. Tracks is part of a cycle of books all set in the same fictional community and dealing with many of the same characters and families — the Kashpaws, Pillagers, and Morrisseys.
She had a page manuscript that was to be the foundation for Tracks , but regarded it as her "burden". With the help of her husband, Michael Dorris , she decided she could use the story to continue the saga of Love Medicine and The Beet Queen. The first edition of Tracks was published in , but several of its chapters had been published previously as short stories.
These include:. Tracks received mixed reviews at the time of its publication, with most critics identifying Erdrich's vivid language and narrative structure as either effective or not. Sheppard criticized Erdrich's use of alternating narratives as too "schematic" and forced — and characterized her graphic descriptions as too "grandiose". She also highlighted concerns over whether or not Tracks could even be considered a true novel, since four of its nine chapters had been previously published as short stories — including one, "Snares", which was controversially published in Best American Short Stories , an anthology that claims it does not admit novel excerpts.
Nonetheless, Strouse also praised Erdrich for "centering on life instead of self" in the novel, and called Tracks "a welcome contrast" to much of mainstream s fiction. Other reviewers responded positively to the novel, including Barbara Hoffert, who called it "splendid", and wrote that Erdrich's prose is "as sharp, glittering, and to the point as cut glass.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Tracks: a novel Front cover of the US first edition. Hessler Spring Wicazo Sa Review. Studies in American Indian Literatures.
Journal of Narrative Theory. Modern American Poetry. English Department, University of Illinois. Retrieved March 18, Beidler American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Voices From the Gaps. University of Minnesota. Evers December Odyssey Editions. Sheppard September 12, The New Statesman and Society.
December 23, Library Journal. The Progressive. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Contribute Help Community portal Recent changes Upload file.
Fleur (short story)
Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus The Antelope Wife was published in , not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.
Louise Erdrich One of the most important Native American authors writing in the United States as of , Louise Erdrich is famous for her unique storytelling technique that draws from her knowledge of Chippewa or Ojibwa life and legend. Although Erdrich is a poet and nonfiction writer as well, her most prominent work involves episodes from the lives of several Chippewa families whose roots are in the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. These richly drawn characters, whose lives intertwine across generations, have filled five novels and many short stories.