Early in Tracks, Erdrich establishes Pauline as a character representative of her people, even though she admits finding her heritage dangerously obsolete. When discussing the doings of Fleur Pillager, a traditionally-minded Ojibwe mystic, Pauline speaks on behalf of her entire community, saying, “We thought she would keep the good ways […] but then […] we knew that we were dealing with something much more serious” (Erdrich 12). Such discourse indicates that Pauline expresses viewpoints broader than her own, and that she acts as a microcosm of 1910s Ojibwe society. This interpretation is further evidenced when Pauline discusses her discomfort with her Native American identity. She spurns traditional Ojibwe handiwork, stating tha...
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... dissolved oxygen interacts with such a metal, hydrogen ions gradually “consume” iron atoms’ electrons (“Rust Chemistry”). Of course, this process results in the replacement of a once-shimmering surface with a coarse, ruddy exterior. In a similar fashion, Erdrich identifies Catholicism as a force that contradicts and consumes elements of the Ojibwe cultural identity, turning individual Ojibwe against their cultural heritage and casting them into a state of internal turmoil. Through the use of Pauline, a character representative of the broader Ojibwe people, Erdrich condemns the role of Catholicism in eroding the significance of traditional practices. As Pauline descends into faith-based instability, Erdrich unveils the cultural attrition wrought by a faith rooted in death, grounded in contradictions, and inimical to the humanistic customs of an indigenous people.
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