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Unformatted text preview: American Indian Culture and Research Journal October 1, 2007 - December 31, 2007 Elucidating Abstract Concepts and Complexity in Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine Through Metaphors of Quilts and Quilt Making BYLINE: Deborah Weagel SECTION: Pg. 79-95 Vol. 31 No. 4 LENGTH: 7384 words In Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, when Nanapush thinks about his future death and burial he instructs Lulu, "So when my time comes, you and your mother should drag me off, wrap me up in quilts. Sing my songs and then bury me high in a tree."1 Quilts have become a part of American Indian culture, and they are mentioned and even highlighted in certain works of contemporary Native American literature. For example, in her novel Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko writes of "the old quilt" that Tayo's mother provides for him while he sleeps on the earth.2 In Reservation Blues, Sherman Alexie describes how Thomas Builds-the-Fire wraps Robert Johnson's guitar "in a beautiful quilt" and gives "it a place of honor in his living room."3 In Thomas King's Truth and Bright Water, Tecumseh's mother Helen works on a quilt that becomes less "geometric" and more "freehand" as she experiences disappointment and frustration in life.4 The quilt becomes progressively unusual and strange as she attaches objects to it such as chicken feet, hair, porcupine quills, earrings, needles, fishhooks, and razor blades. Certain questions can be posed in regard to the inclusion of quilt references in contemporary American Indian novels. Do the quilts and the making of quilts have some type of metaphorical function in the texts? Is it possible for more complex concepts to be articulated and understood better through a tangible, concrete household item such as a quilt? How might a patchwork textile such as a quilt, which is essentially a non-Native art enthusiastically embraced by Native peoples, function as a mediator between white and indigenous cultures? Can the concept of a quilt help the reader better understand the novel's structure? In this article, I address such questions by focusing on the novel Love Medicine, and I demonstrate that the quilts in the narrative can be incorporated into metaphors that help elucidate more abstract ideas, such as wholeness. I also show how the notion of a patchwork quilt, with its often-disparate parts, can illuminate the concept of a mixed blood and further clarify the novel's structure and complexity.5 QUILT MAKING AMONG NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS To begin, it is important to present a brief history of quilt making among Native peoples in North...
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- Fall '09
- Metaphor, Patchwork quilt, Louise Erdrich