The Representation of Christianity in “Saint Marie”

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“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”. 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...
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