Influences of Minority and Dominant Cultural History in Louise Erdrich’s Tracks

Mariana Coles


In Tracks, Louise Erdrich presents two characters, Fleur and Pauline, whose lives parallel one another. Both are women ostracized from their community and mothers and lovers to both a human being and a supernatural being. Because each of them occupies similar positions socially, culturally, and spiritually, they react to the destructive forces facing their community in a similar ways. They attempt to gain control over the situation by using their supernatural powers. However, Erdrich characterizes Fleur’s actions with a sense of autonomy, but Pauline’s are subject to her depraved admiration for Fleur. Where Fleur attempts to save the community by aligning herself with traditional Anishinabe spiritual forces, Pauline takes the conventional Christian God as her own, separating herself from her community. She is the bastardized version of Fleur. Erdrich presents these two versions of the same character to show the dangers of not adapting to new circumstances (this is what Fleur does) or adapting blindly and incoherently (this is what Pauline does). Erdrich shows these two characters residing on either side of accepting/rejecting their shared culture in order to draw the reader into thinking about everyone that stands in between. The multiple perspectives draw the reader into seeing what it means to have an individual history that contradicts with the larger version of “History”. The splintering of both Fleur, a character who chooses to be defined completely by her Anishinabe history, and Pauline, a character who chooses to be defined completely by the dominant culture’s history or “History,” illustrates the disparity of the two choices. Erdrich advocates the necessity for the community to find a healthy balance or face obliteration by either absolute choice.

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