Professor Rob Summers
25 March 2014
Collectiveness and Storytelling in Louise Erdrich’s “Bidwell Ghost”
“Bidwell Ghost” by Louise Erdrich, on one particular level, is a ghost story. The piece describes a story of a young girl, killed in a house fire twenty years ago located on an orchard field. The girl’s presence is still apparent after her death, where she haunts the road next to her home and occasionally makes her way into vehicles that pass by. The themes of nature, womanhood and Native American philosophy & tradition in the piece are unique extensions of Erdrich’s life experiences raised in a Chippewa household and the thematic elements in the piece create a steady, rhythmic flow within the narrative that portrays the ghost’s inner need for companionship and camaraderie. Erdrich’s Native American heritage combined with her rich family background in storytelling shapes and informs her ability as a writer. Therefore, it is not surprising that the allegorical quality of this "ghost story" is in keeping with Erdrich 's distinct background.
Likewise, in many Native American traditions, storytelling is not only one of the most common forms of entertainment amongst Native American communities, but is also a major way of organizing social groups, unifying the everyday lives of citizens and as an outlet for initiative. Richard Erdoes and Alphonso Ortiz, Native American authors of American Indian Myths and Legends, explain that stories are "magic lenses through which we can glimpse social orders and daily life: how families were organized, how political structures operated, how men caught fish, how religious ceremonies felt to the people who took part, how power was divided between men and women" (34). Erdrich draws upon the popular use of storytelling in many of her works, including “Bidwell ghost”, where the piece carries a feel of a tale that continues to be passed along orally from generation to generation.
Like any good
References: Erdoes, R. and Ortiz, A. (1985). American Indian Myths and Legends. New York, NY: Pantheon. Erdrich, Louise. “Bidwell Ghost.” Baptism of Desire. New York. HarperCollins. 1989. p. 34. Print Estes, S. (1996). Women Who Run with the Wolves. Toronto, ON: Random House Inc. Fast, R. R. (2000). The Heart as a Drum: Continuance and Resistance in American Indian Poetry. Detroit, MI: University of Michigan Press.