In Louise Erdrich's Book, Tracks, Is Nanapush a Trickster Or Not? Essay

In Louise Erdrich's Book, Tracks, Is Nanapush a Trickster Or Not? Essay

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King Solomon from the Bible once said that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Every original idea is simply a reworking of a previous idea, with some “originals” having more of the old idea and some less. This concept is especially true for Native American authors, such as Louise Erdrich in her book Tracks, who draw upon ancient stories, legends and culture to give depth and color to their more contemporary writing. One example of how Erdrich expanded upon a previous idea to create an original is found in the character of Nanapush, who, while exhibiting certain trickster-like qualities, has been changed so that he is not a true trickster figure.
In many ways, Nanapush exhibits trickster qualities. For one, he enjoys playing pranks upon people. This delight is evidenced by his consistent teasing of Pauline, when she comes to live with Fleur and her family after entering a convent. For example, Pauline had decided that she would only go to the bathroom two times each day. Nanapush, whether knowing or guessing such, decided to trick her into going more than her self-imposed two times. First, he gave her a lot of tea so that her bladder would be full. Then, he told a long story involving many uses of the word water. The result was that Pauline went to the bathroom more than two times that day. A second trickster-like quality that he exhibits is his reliance upon his wits. Like coyote, Nanapush does not use brute strength to achieve his end; instead, he uses his mind. An example of this quality is shown after Margaret’s head is shaved. Unlike Fleur, who enacts revenge through her power, Nanapush lays a trap for one of the Morrisseys, thus revenging Margaret through means of cunning instead of strength. The third way that Nanapush h...


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...ch a figure may be written into a story from a third-person perspective, but never from a first-person one. Too much of a character emerges, whether intentionally or not, through first-person narration—too much emotion, too many fears and sorrows and joys, too much individual personality. A first-person narrative automatically makes the narrator appear simply human, and characters who appear simply human are neither mysterious nor stock.
In her book, Tracks, Louise Erdrich uses the old idea of a trickster from which to base the character of Nanapush. However, while exhibiting many trickster-like characteristics, Nanapush is not actually a trickster character—he is too human to have such a title. In Nanapush, Erdrich creates a character that is an old idea reworked to create an original one and, in the process, proves that there truly is “nothing new under the sun.”

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