Erdrich writes about different part of Anishinaabeg culture because her mother was Ojibwe and her father was German American (“Louise Erdrich”). While Erdrich was growing up she heard many stories about Ojibwe culture. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biographies, “rich oral tradition of Ojibwe storytelling has been part of Erdrich’s life since childhood. “Listening to her families stories has in some ways been her most significant literary influence (“Louise Erdrich”). Since she grew up with these themes, she integrates them into her work to tell her readers what she believes is important in understanding life.
In “The Shawl” a family of five gets separated and faces a horrible loss. This horrible loss is the loss of a nine year old girl’s life. The first father mentioned in the story, that has tuberculosis, finds the nine year old girl’s shawl torn to pieces in the snow. The father pictures the girl’s death as her own mother, Aanakwad, throwing the girl over the edge of the wagon...
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...renting. However in the second part of the story when Erdrich’s readers learn that the alcoholic father is Gego, the readers see a change in the parenting style of Gego. He stops drinking and begins being a father again.
Choosing to end the story with self-sacrifice is how Louise Erdrich conveys the message that family is central to Anishinaabeg cultural beliefs. The nine year old daughter knew that if she did not “lift her shawl and fly” (Erdrich 18) then everyone in the wagon would die. She also knew that there was a chance of the wolves leaving the wagon to go back to get Gego. She was not willing to let either one of these options happen so she decided that her family meant more to her than her own life. By Gego burning the part of the shawl that is left and looking at her death from new light, he is able to become less distraught over the death of his sister.
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