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Louis Erdrich's Tracks An Invasion Of The White Man

1677 words - 7 pages

Tracks - An Invasion of the White ManThe characters in Louis Erdrich's Tracks all reside around the fictional lake Matchimanito. Although it may not be an actual geographic location, the name of the lake serves as a reminder of the Ojibwa myth of Matchi Manito. Also known as Misshepeshu, the Matchi Manito is the ever-present water monster that potentially lurks around any body of water. It is the everyday interaction with these manitos that constitutes a religion for the Ojibwa people. However, the introduction and mix of other cultures brought about Christian missionaries who spoke of "the belief in a supreme God, the single and total source of human existence" (Vecsey 80). Erdrich uses the contradicting religious beliefs circulating around the Ojibwa people to show the devastating division of a once united tribe. Furthermore, her Erdrich use of the two narrations of Nanapush, a tribe senior who loves and respects his culture, and Pauline, a confused mixed blood, accentuates the destruction of a tribe invaded by explorers and missionaries.In traditional Ojibwe culture, the tribe interacts with a number of these manitos, or monsters, in every part of their lives. It is this that "constitutes the ultimate source of Ojibwa existence" (Vecsey 72). Each member of the tribe views the manito as a means to an end because all sources of food are in some way governed by they presence of a manito. Misshepeshu, the underwater manito, "influences the abundance and availability of land and sea animals" which great effect the food supply (Vecsey 74). This matchi manito is credited with most malicious acts happening in or around the water. According to Chirstopher Vecsey, an Ojibwa religion scholar, "It could cause rapids and stormy waters; it often sank canoes and drowned Indians" (74). But it is also known to "shelter and feed those who fell through the ice" (Vecsey 74). The very dialectical nature of Misshepeshu is something in which Nanapush and the other tribesmen firmly believed. For example, when Fleur returns to the lake from Argus, the town experiences a period of good fishing and no lost boats. They attribute this to Fleur's ability "to keep the lake thing controlled" (Erdrich 35). Because the manito of the lake is appeased, people are hesitant to question the relationship that Fleur has with the monsters in fear of enraging him.Both narratives open with the introduction of Fleur Pillage, the heroine of the novel. Immediately, the reader notices a distinct difference in the two narrators' descriptions of Fleur's arrival to the tribe. The tribe elder Nanapush, also the opening narrator, is the first to find Fleur Pillager after an attack on her family. He notes that she is "about seventeen years old...[and] so feverish that she'd thrown off her covers, and now she huddled against the cold wood range, staring and shaking" (Erdrich 3). When the reader proceeds to Pauline's narrative, they realize that Nanapush never mentioned Fleur's relation to the lake...

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