Louise Erdrich's Poem, "Dear John Wayne," Describes Term Paper

Length: 4 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Native Americans Type: Term Paper Paper: #46915029 Related Topics: Assimilation, Metaphor, Immigration, The Bluest Eye
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Louise Erdrich's poem, "Dear John Wayne," describes assimilation and immigration into a culture defined by racism. Elements of poetry, including diction, image, tone, metaphor, irony, theme, and symbol all play a role in Erdrich's description of culture and racism. Ultimately, "Dear John Wayne" describes white culture's extortion of land and culture from a Native American perspective.

The poem begins with a description of group of young Native American men lying on the hood of a Pontiac car, watching the face of John Wayne as he defeats a group of Indians in a spaghetti western. Here, John Wayne, the American cowboy, himself symbolizes the white invasion of the west, and the white man's taking of Native culture and land. Wayne himself is the ultimate fighter against the Indians, the individualistic and rugged cowboy that symbolizes the white desire for land and power. The poem describes "hordes of mosquitoes," which represent the white invasion, and their relentless attacks and numbers that make them largely unstoppable.

It is ironic that the young Native American men are lying on the hood of a Pontiac car. The car symbolizes the success of the white invasion, and the assimilation of the young Native men into white culture, and the loss of their own, traditional ways. It is ironic that the car is a Pontiac, named after a great Native American chief who led an uprising against the white settlers. The defeat of Pontiac signaled the start of the end of Native American control over their land, and the beginning of the white assimilation of Indian land and people.

Erdrich's diction is telling in its description of racism and culture. She describes John Wayne as a larger-than-life figure that fills the


The description of Wayne's face is typical, as "acres of blue squint and eye," give the reader an idea of the enormity of his presence. Erdrich uses her words carefully to describe the attitudes and beliefs that underlie Wayne's actions in the film. She writes, "His face moves over us, a thick cloud of vengeance," demonstrating the overwhelming presence of the whites, and their need for vengeance and retribution against those who fight their claims to land and superiority in the west. She continues, "It is not over, this fight, as long as you resist," her worlds clearly underscoring the resoluteness of the white claim to Indian land.

The tone of the poem helps to reveal Erdrich's feelings about racism and the white takeover of Indian land. Wayne is portrayed as a larger-than-life presence that ruthlessly takes what he wants. It is this tone of ruthlessness and of indulgence that runs throughout the poem. Erdrich writes, "Come on, boys, we got them where we want them, drunk, running. They'll give us what we want, what we need." Here, Wayne and the whites are seen as ruthless and driven in their quest to take over the Native American land and destroy their culture.

Simile and metaphor are used effectively in Erdrich's poem to help illustrate the racism and white assimilation of Indian culture and land. As the poem begins, the Indians are spotted near a lookout, and attack the settlers "who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds into the history that brought us all here together." Here, the dead settlers are seen as tumbleweeds, showing a connection with the land and as the tumbleweeds integrate into the land, the death of the settlers becomes part of the larger history of white occupation of the west. Later, after the movie ends, Erdrich describes the young native men as, "back in our skins." Here, this is simply a metaphor for the return to everyday life, and the end of the shared history and community that is created on the movie screen.

Images are a profound and important part of Erdrich's descriptions of racism and the white "disease" of expansionism. She describes the Indians in the movie as "drunk, running," while John Wayne is seen as an enormous presence on the screen, filled with "acres of blue squint and eye." Here, the images that Erdrich uses evocatively describe the Native American as weak and doomed, while the white presence, symbolized…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Erdrich, Louise. Dear John Wayne. In: Meyer, Michael. 2001. Poetry: An Introduction, 3rd ed. Bedford/st Martins, p. 444-445.

Cite this Document:

"Louise Erdrich's Poem Dear John Wayne Describes" (2004, April 19) Retrieved June 12, 2021, from

"Louise Erdrich's Poem Dear John Wayne Describes" 19 April 2004. Web.12 June. 2021. <

"Louise Erdrich's Poem Dear John Wayne Describes", 19 April 2004, Accessed.12 June. 2021,

Related Documents
Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine
Words: 1514 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Agriculture Paper #: 70159831

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. Specifically, it will make a claim about the connection between food and conflict in the novel, then support the claim with evidence from the book and personal analysis and interpretation. Food is a very important element in "Love Medicine," and much of the food references in the novel also revolve around conflict, which is a central theme in the novel. Food and conflict often

Tracks by Louise Erdrich It Is Easy
Words: 870 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Native Americans Paper #: 32341604

Tracks by Louise Erdrich It is easy to forget within the pride of patriotism that the United States is a post-colonial culture. Through the devaluation and near extinction of the cultures that once thrived within the confines of what some now consider the greatest country in the world is the story of so many colonized people from all over the world. Though not the only theme within Louise Erdrich's Tracks, the

Shawl by Louise Erdrich Marriages
Words: 1518 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Family and Marriage Paper #: 92639400

His mother chose to leave him behind for reasons best known to her and not only that; she also tore him away from two little girls who had been such an important part of his life. This completely changes his personality and when as an adult he loses his wife, he connects his childhood experience to this negative experience and becomes an alcoholic. Thus we can say with some

Tracks by Louise Erdrich
Words: 772 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Mythology - Religion Paper #: 29868690

Tracks Louise Erdich What are the strategies that Erdrich uses to pull the reader quickly into her story? Louise Erdrich pulls the reader into her novel Tracks by using two strong narrators, Nanapush and Pauline Puyat, who are hostile to each other and represent opposed points-of-view, although neither is exactly 100% honest. The story opens during the tuberculosis epidemic of 1912, which "must have cleared all of the Anishinabe (Ojibwa) that the

Queen by Louise Erdrich, the
Words: 328 Length: 1 Pages Topic: Sociology Paper #: 1830197

Ultimately, Karl finds within the society that knows him a willingness to accept him for what he is. It is no longer necessary to hide behind jokes or trickery. He needs not change his sexual identity nor his sense of himself to establish a more mature affiliation with those around him. When reentering the society at Argus, Karl is able to do so still as himself, with a sexual identity

Mauser by Erdrich
Words: 792 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 69129702

Mauser by Louise Erdrich What Seems Hard to Believe Turns out to be Believable and Satisfying Mauser, by Louise Erdrich, is a short story that is so well-written and packs so many emotions (love, heartbreak, infidelity, corruption, lust, rage) into so few pages -- taking a highly unlikely set of personalities and dynamics and making them actually seem highly likely, believable -- it leaves the reader frustrated and yet entertained at the