“Saint Marie” is a chapter from “Love Medicine” written by Louise Erdrich in 1984. “Love Medicine” is her first novel, in which she focuses on the relations between two Chippewa families living on an Indian Reservation. Marie Lazarre is one of the major characters from whose viewpoint we can learn about their lives in the reservation and outside. “Saint Marie” is about Marie Lazarre’s journey to the Sacred Heart Convent at the age of fourteen. This journey is about losing her native religion and converting to Christianity, and by becoming a Christian she will eventually be an Indian saint. And I’d be carved in pure gold. With ruby lips. And my toenails would be little pink ocean shells, which they would have to stoop down off their high horse to kiss. ” She resists her own culture and calls herself white. “I don’t have that much Indian blood” and “I looked good. And I looked white” she says at one point in the novel. She also says that she has “the mail-order Catholic soul you get in a girl raised out in the bush”. She decides to climb the mountain to the convent where there are nuns who don’t get along elsewhere.
The convent is full of nuns who complain a lot or lose their minds. Soon we encounter Sister Leopolda, a nun carrying a long oak pole with an iron hook at the end. She is obsessed with the presence of Satan, the Evil One. She believes that He can enter anyone through any of the seven openings of the human body. The Sister is sadistic and she constantly terrorizes Marie and her classmates in the convent school. She believes that the Evil One wants, craves Marie’s soul. She intends to save her. Marie has an ambivalent feeling towards her “mentor”.
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She wants Sister Leopolda’s heart. Sometimes “in love and admiration” and sometimes she wants it “to roast on a black stick”. The saving ritual of the Sister includes, apart from closing Marie into the closet, her making Marie sleep by the furnace, and her pouring boiling water in Marie’s ears. Maries experiences a little death after Sister Leopolda’s sadistic method of driving out the Indian girl’s evil spirit. She sees herself “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 bob wire, hung there for an age, and finally rotted into the breeze. ” This is the motif of death and rebirth, the scene of resurrection according to James N. Frey. She realizes that the Evil One is not after her.
Her spirit is not cursed at all, but it is Sister Leopolda who the Satan is after. In her final encounter with the Evil One, Marie kicks the Sister into the bread oven but the stove is not that deep that she thought and the Sister bounces back and stabs Marie with her fork and knocks her out with the poker. When she regains consciousness she finds herself lying in a bed surrounded by praying nuns. Ironically enough, what Sister Leopolda did is what the rest of the convent takes to be a manifestation of Jesus Christ’s stigmata. According to James N.
Frey, the sister stabbing her with the fork and giving her the stigmata and conferring on her sainthood, “Marie has been transformed from being just another raggedy, anonymous Indian girl into a religious icon with nuns worshipping at her feet. ” During the history of Christianity we not once learnt about the cruelty of religious people, leaders of the Catholic Church who hid behind religion and their sadistic deeds were forgiven or even regarded as natural and necessary. The Spanish Inquisition was famous for killing thousands of people, Jews and Muslims, and all the others with different kinds of religion.
Sister Leopolda is clearly racist and her prejudices enable her to do whatever she wants with those Indian girls to convert them into Christianity. Their native religion is regarded as evil. Since Indian religions are famous for their closeness to nature, their visions through different kinds of rituals with the help of sun dances, unknown liquids and herbs; odd rituals that white Christians have not experienced before, they can be regarded as heretics the same way Spanish Inquisition regarded everybody heretic who did not believe in what they did. Marie had to be saved from her Evil spirit.
This is what we see in the stove scene where she gets her stigmata and is now officially looked at as a saint. She is a converted Christian, leaving behind her “evil” culture. Sources: -James N. Frey. ” Mythpower in Short stories. ” Magazin fur Kreatives Schreiben. Retrieved 21 April 2007 <http://www. jamesnfrey. com/articles/mythpower. html>. -Drs. Jose Goris. “. Remarkable Women in Love Medicine: Marie and Lulu ” Website Jose Goris. Retrieved 21 April 2007 < http://members. home. nl/ja. goris/lovemedicine. htm> -Erdrich, Louise. “Saint Marie” Love Medicine. New York. Harper Perennial. 1993.