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Marie Lazarre Kashpaw And Lulu Lamartine: Matriarchs Of The Chippewa Tribe

1678 words - 7 pages

As Mother’s Day approaches, writer Penny Rudge salutes “Matriarchs [who] come in different guises but are instantly recognizable: forceful women, some well-intentioned, others less so, but all exerting an unstoppable authority over their clan” (Penny Rudge), thereby revealing the immense presence of women in the American family unit. A powerful example of a mother’s influence is illustrated in Native American society whereby women are called upon to confront daily problems associated with reservation life. The instinct for survival occurs almost at birth resulting in the development of women who transcend a culture predicated on gender bias. In Love Medicine, a twentieth century novel ...view middle of the document...

Marie’s confrontation with Sister Leopolda at age fourteen, and as a woman indicates that she possesses the shrewdness of an adult as a child; she has courage, is arrogant, practical, and exudes self-esteem (Sentence Pattern 1). She enters the convent to escape reservation life and find love, but quickly gets caught up in the sadistic nun’s web of cruelty, losing her romantic vision of becoming “Saint Marie”(58). Marie responds to Sister Leopolda’s brutality, with boldness and pride, indicating that “the pain had kept [her] strong”(55), and that someday, “I’ll inherit your keys from you”(50), evidencing her stern resolve to succeed. However, Marie’s survival skills and intuition surface after a violent altercation with Sister Leopolda prompting Marie to push the good Sister into a hot oven, “the gate of a personal hell”(57), revealing her dark side. Marie’s conflict with Sister Leopolda resurfaces twenty years later when she visits the convent on a mission to retrieve the “iron poker that [Sister Leopolda] marked [her] with”(152) to show her power over the death-ridden nun, but lets the sister win, revealing that Marie is a “bewildering mixture of toughness and compassion, of tenderness and astringent candor”(Castillo). These inconsistent personality traits enable Marie to cope with her husband’s betrayal with Lulu Lamartine, her nemesis.
Marie’s strength of conviction and loyalty to her family is illustrated by her reaction to her husband’s affair. Although Marie believes that “the sight of Lamartine’s blood would do [her] good, / [she] wouldn’t park [herself] on the tracks”(157-158) and commit suicide, because she would “see him in hell first”(158). Marie carefully weighs her options, never losing sight of her self-respect because she “never went down on [her] knees to God or anyone”(160), and decides not to confront her husband, but to follow the teachings of Sister Leopolda who taught her to “put [her] hand through what scared him”(162), thereby saving her marriage and her position as “the wife of the chairman of the Chippewa Tribe”(161). Marie’s calm and practical disposition at a time of crisis whereby she acknowledges that her hubris contributed to her failure to detect her husband’s transgression of five years, represents important survival skills that empower her to persevere and retain her dignity, unlike Lulu Lamartine, who is not as successful (Sentence Pattern 4).
Lulu Lamartine learns at an early age to use her skill as a temptress to coexist and survive in a male dominated Native American society. She discovers her ability to “grind men’s bones to drink in [her] night tea, / [and become] their food, their harmful drinks”(82) having liaisons and bearing children out of wedlock, untouched by male companionship until Nector Kashpaw detects what is hidden within her soul. Lulu acknowledges that Nector has her “over the barrel of his love, / [prompting her to cling] to him like no other”(277) until he commits the ultimate...

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