Monday, May 23, 2011

Visions in "Love Medicine"

Again I am examining dreams and visions, this time in Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. There are thingies that I'm not sure if they qualify as dreams/visions, but right here I'll focus on those that I'm not debating.

I won't be explaining the excerpts as I go, so unless you've already read this you probably won't follow me.

I've got the 2009 edition of Love Medicine.


Oh yes, and I could also write about the visions of ghosts, but it's late at night and call me superstitious but I'll get spooked if I write about those visions right now. So that narrows it all down to four visions that I'll be writing about! Two for Marie, two for Nector.

"I was about to throw that cornmeal mush out to the birds and make a run for it, when the vision rose up blazing in my mind.

I was rippling gold. My breasts were bare and my nipples flashed and winked. Diamonds tipped them. I could walk through panes of glass. I could walk through windows. She was at my feet, swallowing the glass after each step I took. I broke through another and another. The glass she swallowed ground and cut until her starved insides were only a subtle dust. She coughed. She coughed a cloud of dust. And then she was only a black rag that flapped off, snagged in bobwire, hung there for an age, and finally rotted into the breeze"

Marie has already been abused by Leopolda, and here she's seeing herself overcome Leopolda. Marie is becoming something magnificent, something amazing enough to rival a saint (which is what she intends to become). Not only is she made of gold with her breasts tipped in diamonds, she is able to walk through glass and break it without being hurt. Instead it is Leopolda who is injured, and is ultimately vanquished.

So basically: the the 14 year old girl (she's 14, right?) sees herself becoming perfection itself, and invincible, while her enemy is trodden down.

But Leopolda is not directly injured by Marie. She's hurt by the glass that Marie steps through, she swallows it. What does this mean? That Marie will not harm Leopolda directly (although later she does try to push Leopolda into the hot oven!) but that Leopolda will inevitably be hurt by Marie's triumphs?

It almost seems that Leopolda is not worth Marie's concern, since Leopolda is only hurt by Marie's steps, and even at that because she swallows the glass. (Why does she swallow it?) And yet Marie does continue to concern herself with Leopolda. Or maybe she just takes a while to realize that Leopolda isn't worth her time. She does soon enough leave the convent, and doesn't return for at least 20 years. But in the end she does return when Leopolda is dying, and she returns because she wants to confront Leopolda. Why? To show Leopolda what she has become.

Maybe she forgot that Leopolda is not worth her time?

Or maybe I'm trying to fit the story to a (wrong) particular interpretation.

"Everything stopped moving around me. The walls held. I saw tiny lights of spirits enter, and although they flickered all around the edges of the room, I was not afraid. The circles of silvery ghost lights fastened my pain and dragged it through the outer walls. Instead of dying, I sat up. Fleur was there" (99-100).

We have Marie again, this time giving birth. It might be assumed that she is hallucinating because of the pain, but let's assume that she really is having a vision.

So, we've got spirits and "ghost lights" floating around. We already know that Marie is very spiritual, so it perhaps shouldn't be surprising that they show up, and/or that she can see them.

The ghost lights...maybe they are guardians of death (after all, "ghost lights") who are there to either take her away or bar the way? It seems that they're there to bar the way because they take her pain away from her, and "instead of dying" Marie finds the strength to sit up. That's also the precise moment when Fleur shows up. We don't know too much about Fleur, but we do know that she's some sort of medicine woman. So perhaps the spirits are preceding her? Perhaps they're there to help Fleur help Marie, rather than showing up just for Marie.

The birth is also a sort of bonding between Marie and Rushes Bear. Does the vision have anything to do with that?

"That is the state of mind I was in when I began to think of Lulu. The truth is I had never gotten over her. I thought back to how swiftly we had been moving toward each other's soft embrace before everything got tangled and swept me on past. In my mind's eye I saw her arms stretched out in longing while I shrank into the blue distance of marriage. Although it had happened with no effort on my part, to ever get back I'd have to swim against the movement of time" (124).

I'm counting this as a vision because Nector saw things with a strange clarity during that moment, and "the fact is when I got up from the front steps I was changed" (124).

Here Nector sees himself as a young man and remembers courting Lulu. Things are mostly muddled, and he doesn't even know how he wound up with Marie rather than Lulu. And not even because Lulu scorned him! He could have had Lulu, but on that fateful day when Marie left the convent something happened that he couldn't understand.

Ever since Marie, he's been pretty muddled. Marie has been in charge of things, and Nector pretty much just goes along. But here he's able to see clearly, and what's the result? He has a fling with Lulu, without even looking for it.

Hmm, so like Marie just happened to him, Lulu just happens to him. But only after his "vision."

"I see Marie standing in the bush. She is fourteen and slim again. I can do nothing but stare, rooted to the ground. She stands tall, straight and stern as an angel. She watches me. Red flames from the burning house glare and flicker in her eyes. Her skin sheds light. We are face to face, and then she begins to lift on waves of heat. Her breast is a glowing shield. Her arm is a white-hot spear. When she raises it, the bush behind her spreads, blazing open like wings.

I go down on my knees, a man of rags and tinder. I am ready to be burned in the fire, too, but she reaches down and lifts me up.

'Daddy,' she says, 'Let's get out of here. Let's go' "

Nector sees Marie at the same age when he realized that she was a woman and fell in love (?) with her. She is not exactly as described in the vision Marie had of herself, but regardless is spectacular. He compares her to an angel, and "Her breast is a glowing shield." (Sort of sad that he noticed her breasts since this is actually his daughter!) She has come to him after he has left her and then inadvertently set on fire the house of the woman he left her for.

Also notice "the bush behind her spreads, blazing open like wings." This puts me in mind of the burning bush in the Bible that Moses encounters. So, might we compare this to the Moses story? Well, she's already been compared to a heavenly being. Let's see...

Maybe she's laying down the law, which is that he needs to go back to his wife who he strayed from? Somewhat like the Jews needing to turn back to YHWH, who they turned from?

Except, then it is his daughter. I'm not sure what to make of that.

No comments:


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