Alcoholism in Love Medicine

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Jenn Baldwin
Alcohol: The Medicine of Love
One object that repeatedly appears in the novel, Love Medicine, is alcohol. Many of the main characters exhibit traits of and struggle with alcoholism. A majority of the chapters in Love Medicine present scenes of characters drinking alcohol, whether it be in casual occasions or in more serious matters. It seems that these Native Americans in the novel treat drinking as a social and cultural activity, at first, but then it turns to an addiction and a serious problem for some of these characters. This presence of alcohol is an underlying factor that drives these main characters’ actions and ultimately determines the plot of the novel. I believe that the drive of alcohol and drunkenness leads characters to make decisions about love and this can be related to the title, Love Medicine.

The opening scene presents June, who is at a bar getting drunk with a “male friend.” She is only interested in the man because she believes that he is somewhat rich. As she becomes more intoxicated she warms up to the man and eventually has sex with him in his car. It is clear that an “attraction” does not lead June to engage in sexual relations with this stranger man, but instead her actions are influenced by the alcohol. The emotion of love is clearly lacking from this scene and the alcohol, which acts as a “love medicine,” fixes the flaw and enables June to partake in this “act of love.” However, while intoxicated she begins a long walk back to the reservation, a walk which ends her life. The intoxication led to June to make the decision of walking; therefore the alcohol takes the lead in the plot and determines the outcome of June’s life. This example, at the very beginning of the novel, shows the reader how important of a role alcohol will play throughout the rest of the story.

In the same chapter, the family uses alcohol as a crutch to cope with June’s death. King gets drunk in order to mask the pain he felt after his...
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