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To truly appreciate the value in a novel as diverse and as rare as Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, one must attempt to identify the author's intention in composing such a work. By virtually any account, the undertaking of this novel is a fairly ambitious one in which Erdrich portrays the connections between the lives of family members and generations over a 50-year time period, beginning in 1934 and finishing, in somewhat Orwellian fashion, in 1984. When an author is dealing with the disparate and unified lives of at least seven characters (depending on which version of the book is read) with a myriad amount of stories that all connect at varying points in the history of the lives of the characters, utilizing a multiplicity of narrators becomes, on a basic level, a fairly essential technique. The primary purpose of utilizing a variety of narrators however, is similar to the reason that Love Medicine also is not written chronologically, and presents separate segments in time at different points in the manuscript. The reason why the author chose to invoke both of these approaches is to sufficiently weave the rich tapestry of life, which does sometimes occurs anachronistically (at least its significance, anyways), and nearly always does so from a variety of viewpoints that paint, so to speak, a composite picture.
Therefore, the impact created from the multiplicity of narrators is that the reader gets a more accurate glimpse or even understanding of the varying dimensions of characterization, motive, and their many varying inflections that constitute both the individuals and the collective family units depicted in Love Medicine. Furthermore, these stylistic points and literary devices (which also include the leaps and subtractions of years of time) help to elucidate the motifs that power this work, and that account for its overall significance....
The principle themes which this novel deals with are the vicissitudes of the interrelationships between familial relations, as well as the results of the unavoidable collisions between traditional Native American and non-traditional Native American culture, most of the events of which are of European descent and include the repercussions of alcohol and alcoholism, international martial conflicts such as the Vietnam War, as well as varying aspects of the legal system and of capitalism itself. These diverse aspects play an influential role in the lives of the predominantly Native American characters that exist in the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota, on the Ojibwa reservation.
There are several fascinating facets of this novel that would lose their flair or their meaning if it were told from a third person perspective, especially from one which was omniscient. The richness and the vivacity of the interpersonal relationships of Lipsha, for instance, who is and represents a multitude of varying things such as a healer, a grandson, as well as a soldier in the army. Lispha's entire life is displayed throughout this work, which is a confusing story of his misunderstood familial heritage (for him, anyways, all the other characters realize that he is adopted and know who is actual parents are) and vocation before he finally to understand who -- and what -- he really is, as the following quotation readily indicates. "Now as you know, as I have told you, I am sometimes blessed with the talent to touch the sick and heal their individual problems without ever knowing what they are. I have some powers which, now that I think of it, are likely come down from Old Man Pillager himself. And then there is the newfound fact of insight I inherited from Lulu, as well as the familiar teachings of Grandma Kapshaw on visioning what comes to pass from a lump of tinfoil (79-80)." This quotation…
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