18 April 2007
The Significance of Truthful Change
“The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse” by Louise Erdrich, depicts an ambiguous and rebelling nun, Agnes DeWitt, who although a sister of the Catholic Church, separated herself from God. After tragedy strikes and her impious lover has perished, Agnes DeWitt is faced with confusion and seeks individuality. Perilous change is soon made: Agnes begins a transition from female to male. However, this early event appears to be a minor reason for change in comparison to conditions Agnes later faces. Agnes must assume authority to become a practicing leader of the Roman Catholic Church; hence an extensive transition toward masculinity is crucial. The identity change Agnes undergoes is influenced by future conditions, her necessity for supremacy, to appraise changes of the Ojibwe tribe due to political and chronological effects and most importantly, to express the themes presented throughout the novel.
The first emotional transformation was compelled by the convent’s disapproval of who Sister Cecilia truly was. Mother Superior condemned the passion Cecilia felt for Chopin and his music, forcing Cecilia to flea the convent in order to protect the notes that possessed her. She found it necessary to return to the outside world and again become Miss Agnes DeWitt. She arrived at the property of Berndt Vogel, who began to love Agnes. However, Agnes does not immediately fall victim to Berndt’s marriage offers. Agnes is still focused on dedicating herself to the man that identifies her: Chopin. After Tumasone 2
many requests, Berndt finally allows Agnes to purchase a piano that she can play at his farm. Agnes dedicated every second of the day making love to this spiritual man; yet she is able to reach her sexual peak. She was expressing herself in the exact way her soul was commanding her to. Although Berndt took great pleasure in listening to the sounds Agnes played, he seems to be jealous that Agnes’ is giving herself to a perished man instead of himself. The narration reads, “Agnes looked into his face, openly at last, showing him the great weight of feeling she carried, though not for him” (Erdrich 21). However, Berndt falls victim to the beauty of Chopin, allowing him to enter in to the soul of Agnes. She gave in to temptation, taking Berndt into her body.
The first physical identity alteration from Agnes to Father Damien occurs after Agnes has lost the two icons that she has given her love to. When Berndt is shot and fatally wounded, the man she had given her virginity to now gone and Agnes is left lost. She attempts to turn to the sounds of Chopin for sympathy, but not even her passion for music can hide the pain. I begin to notice early in the novel that Agnes cannot thrive without a loving figure present in her life. She feels the need to repent; to change the errant life she is leading and to seek love. In 1912, a horrific flood allowing Agnes to turn away from the past and assume the identity of Father Damien washes the sole object that defines Agnes DeWitt, the piano, away. Upon finding the lifeless Father Damien Modeste I, Agnes dresses herself in his clothes and cassock and walks away as Father Damien Modeste II.
When Kasphaw and Quill are killed following the procession of the Virgin, Father Damien is forced to switch back to the confused yet compassionate Agnes. Mary Kashpaw, the daughter of Kashpaw and Quill, is left parentless which disturbs Mary. A in most times of tragedy, Agnes becomes who her soul directs her to be. She questions fate and destiny, wondering why such evil has been brought upon Mary. Most profound, Agnes relates Mary to herself. Just as Mary is filled with confusion and misunderstanding, Agnes has also felt such emotion throughout her life. Who better to father Mary than an individual who can relate to her very emotions? As the story progresses, Mary and...
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