Louise Erdrich uses the Native American oral tradition in her short story “Fleur”. Such a literary approach enabled her to concentrate the reader’s attention on the central character of the story – Fleur Pillager. She uses other distinctive characters to create the all-in-one picture of the story.
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Erdrich writes that “the first time she drowned in the cold and glassy water of Lake Turcot, Fleur Pillager was only a girl” (Erdrich cited in Baym, 1999). This description of the Fleur makes the reader think about her uncommonness. The character is surrounded by mystery taken by an author from tribal mythology. Fleur is represented as an attractive and beautiful woman, but no one dares to woo her as Misshepeshu people know that she belongs to a copper-skinned water monster with green eyes.
It’s important not that Fleur is not only attractive, but she is also a skilled woman as she speaks sparely, directly, appositely, and memorably to other people. Fleur’s character is endowed with the ability to study almost forgotten medicine and unknown ancient ways. Those people who lived in the reservation are not able to understand her, she is a mystery to them, and thus, they are afraid of her; they make up stories and spread gossips about her turn into animals and practice dark magic. Those citizens are just about ready to turn her out of town when she leaves.
After Fleur’s coming to Argus’s reservation, she meets the narrator of the story. The advent of Pauline is significant. It might be suggested that by the usage of this character Erdrich enhances the sense of Fleurs’s invisibility as only those two people who are not understood and unnoticed by other people can see each other. Pauline is represented as Fleur’s mediator for undertaking her own life and feelings.
Fleur’s extraordinarily is shown by the episode that happens after she leaves Argus when she plays cards with the mail stock characters called “good boys” – Pete, Dutch, Groenewald, and Veddar. And, again, Pauline helps Fleur to undertake this. “It was not just that she was a Chippewa or even that she was a woman, it was not that she was good looking or even that she was alone that made their brains hum, it was how she played cards” (Baym, p. 2574).
Fleur is described as a wise, consistent and self restrain person. As she has won all of the cards games, those men whom she plays with, want to catch her cheating. That is why they suggest she play one more time, but she resists.
The reader explores, again, that Fleur’s character is surrounded with mystery, when she is violated by one of the players and Pauline is not able to help her even she knows what is happening. The following day, that man is found hungover, and a tornado rips through the town. The card players hide with their bulldog in a meat locker; they do not even think to invite Pauline into safety. But the tornado speaks to her and tells them how to survive. The next day, those men are found frozen in the meat locker. This episode must satisfy the reader’s indignation as it restores justice.
Those mail “good boys” stereotypical characters remain committed to their habits and their doings also remain mold throughout the story. Pauline can be regarded as a flat character. Although her character is represented as invisible, unnoticed, forgotten, and manipulated by the other “stronger” characters, it is her who is the narrator of the story and the mediator of self-understanding for Fleur. As for Fleur, she is an active character that remains a mystery throughout the short story; she is fragile as a ‘flower’ and rough as‘pillage’ at the same time.
Edrich, Louise. Fleur. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton & Company, 1999. 2569-2580.