In Louise Erdrich’s “Tracks';, the readers discovers by the second chapter that there are two narrators, Nanapush and Pauline Puyat. This method of having two narrators telling their stories alternately could be at first confusing, especially if the readers hasn’t been briefed about it or hasn’t read a synopsis of it. Traditionally, there is one narrator in the story, but Erdrich does an effective and spectacular job in combining Nanapush and Pauline’s stories. It is so well written that one might question as he or she reads who is the principal character in this story? Being that there are two narrators, is it Nanapush, the first narrator, him being a participant in the story, who tells his story in the “I'; form? Or is it Pauline, the second narrator, who also narrates in the “I'; form? Upon further reading, the motive for both narrators’ stories become more evident, and by the end of the book, it becomes clear that one character is the driving force for both of the narrators’ stories. This central character is Fleur Pillager. She in fact is the protagonist of “Tracks';. Even though she is limited in dialogues, her actions speak more than words itself.
Structurally speaking, Fleur is mentioned in every chapter of the book, either being referred to by the two narrators or being part of the story. In fact, after researching the novel several times, no other character including the two narrators is consistently mentioned in every chapter. In the first chapter, Nanapush tells Lulu, his granddaughter, about the fate of the Chippewa Tribe. He then spends most of the chapter discussing the beginning of Fleur, who is Lulu’s mother, and how he saved her life. In the second chapter, Pauline, the second narrator, begins her story gossiping about Fleur to an unknown listener in detail. Pauline continues to focus her story on Fleur’s life, discussing in length of incidents about her. Pauline’s obsessive behavior becomes more evident when she’s in Argus with Fleur. “Since that night (in Argus), [Fleur] puts me in the closet, I was no longer jealous or afraid of her, but follow her close as Russell (Pauline’s cousin), closer, stayed with her, became her moving shadow that the men never noticed…'; (22).
Therefore, in these two chapters both narrators set the stage for telling their stories on their account of Fleur. Not o...
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...med to gain attention by telling odd tales that created damage" (39). Her presence to him is more like a pesky fly that won’t go away. It is this lack of attention by others in which drives Pauline to tell her story.
Looking back at the atom theory stated earlier, if we exclude Nanapush and his story from “Tracks';, what we have left is Pauline’s obsession with Fleur. In Pauline’s eyes, as well as others, Fleur is good- looking, mysteriously powerful and dangerous. In contrast to her who is “a skinny, big-nosed girl with staring eyes'; who is also so “poor-looking'; (15). Pauline notices these differences and in effect becomes jealous of Fleur because of all the attention she receives from people. She sees herself in “competition'; with Fleur. At first, Pauline just wants to be close to Fleur, but by the end she wants to be “better'; than her. Within her story, the argument that Pauline is the protagonist and that Fleur is her antagonist could be valid, but if you look at the novel in its entirety, meaning the structure and content, the principal character that emerges from it is Fleur Pillager.
Erdrich, Louise. Tracks
New York: Harper & Row, 1988
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