Critical and Resisting Attitudes
to the Assimilation Project and the Church
In Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Alexie’s Reservation Blues
Written By Wahyu Seno Aji
In this paper, I talk about two Native American Novels. (written by Native American and about native American life in the reservation). My paper will show how white’s religion or the church is seen differently by the Native American characters in Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Alexie’s Reservation Blues . This kind of seeing reflects the critical and resisting attitude toward white culture, especially toward the implementation of white religion in Indian community as part of assimilation project. I read the two novels with a historical background to show the attitude or the tone.
Keywords: Native American novel. History. Critical attitude/tone. Assimilation project. Church institution.
According to VanSpanckeren (111), in the history of American Literature, Love Medicine belongs to the New Regionalism. This is a kind of literary work that portrays a specific community, a literary tradition that long has been appeared in the history of American Literature. Kate Chopin, Mark Twain, and Faulkner are some examples from this tradition. Reservation Blues too, is easily recognized as portraying a specific community. Both Love Medicine and Reservation Blues portray the live of Native American or Indian community in their own reservation. The techniques in both novels have also already appeared in the previous American literature, for example the non-linear plot development can also be found in Faulkner’s work. The technique of using different point of view/ different speakers too, has been a common practice. The interesting part from the two novels that can probably be said as giving a new contribution to the previous regionalism, and therefore becomes a distinctive feature, is in their technique of mixing the mythical / non realistic/ dream-like features with the realistic features. Regionalism usually takes a realistic form. As largely found in realistic novel, its mode of expression tends to be consistent through the whole novel. And its portrayal tends to confirm the real experience. For example, an uncommon event in the real life will also be uncommon for the character in the literary work. Even in a horror/ gothic/ supra natural story, its horrific/ supra-naturalistic feature is also conditioned by experience in the real life (for example a ghost is also scary in the real life). If the work has a dream-like/ non-realistic mode of expression, then the large part of the details (event, character, and plot) are consistently unrealistic. In both of these novels, the realistic and non-realistic parts are blended. Some parts of this (mythical) feature probably come from the very fact that Indian societies see ‘reality’ differently. Their attitude and reaction toward western religion therefore could be very different from the common white’s attitude and reaction. My paper will only show how white’s religion or the church is seen differently, and how this kind of seeing can be considered as a critical and resisting attitude toward white culture, especially toward the implementation of white religion in Indian community as part of assimilation project.
Literary Work and Its relation to reality
The practice of relating literary work to reality is a common practice. Many literary devices and approaches indicate that knowledge on the real or ‘outside’ reality is helpful. A symbol may relate the work to something general or specific which is not directly stated in the work. An Allusion may build a reference to something specific in ‘real event’ or other ‘literary work’ or book already written. Historical approach sees literature as footnote of history, a documentation of history. There is also a new historicism, which sees history as subjective testimony. There are many versions of...
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