Summary Of The Fleur Story English Literature Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: English Literature|
|✅ Wordcount: 1201 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
“Fleur” begins by stating that Fleur Pillager was only a girl when she drowned in Lake Turcot, which is located in Native American reservation in North Dakota. Two men dive in and save her and, not long afterward, both disappear. Fleur falls in the lake again when she is twenty, but no one is willing to touch her. One man bends towards her when she washes onshore, and Fleur curses him, telling him that he will die instead of her. He drowns shortly thereafter in a bathtub. Men stay away from Fleur, believing that she is dangerous and that the water monster Misshepeshu wants her for himself.
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Because she practices what the narrator calls “evil” ways, Fleur is unpopular on the reservation, and some gather to throw her out. In the summer of 1920, she leaves on her own accord for the town of Argus. Noticing a steeple, she walks straight toÂ the church and asks the priest for work. He sends her to a butcher shop where Fleur works with the owner’s wife Fritzie, hauling packages of meat to a locker. Fleur gives the men a new topic of conversation, particularly when she begins playing cards with them.
Pulling up a chair without being invited, she asks if she can join their game of cards. Fleur borrows eight cents from the narrator Pauline and begins to win. The men unsuccessfully try to rattle her, and Tor discovers that she is unable to bluff, but Fleur continues to win. Fleur finally picks up Pauline, who is hiding in the walls, and puts her to bed. The game continues night after night, and each time Fleur wins exactly one dollar. The men are soon “lit with suspense” and ask Pete to join the game. Lily is confounded by Fleur and suspects that she may be cheating for low stakes.
In August, when Fleur has won thirty dollars, Pete and Fritzie leave for Minnesota. With Pete out of the way, Lily raises the stakes in an attempt to shake Fleur. After a long night of going up and down, Fleur wins the entire pot and then leaves the game. The men begin drinking whiskey straight from the bottle and go outside to hide in wait for Fleur. Lily attempts to grab her, but she douses him with a bucket of hog slops and runs into the yard. Lily falls into the sow’s pen, and the sow attacks him. He beats its head against a post and eventually escapes to chase Fleur to the smokehouse with the other men. They catch Fleur, who cries out Pauline’s name, but Pauline cannot bring herself to help.
The next morning, the weather begins to turn into a violent storm and the men take shelter in the meat locker. Pauline goes to the doors and slams down the iron bar to lock them inside. The winds pick up and send Pauline flying through the air, and Argus is thoroughly wrecked by the storm. Because everyone is occupied with digging out from the storm, days pass before the townspeople notice that three men are missing. Kozka’s Meats has been nearly destroyed, although Fritzie and Pete come home to find that the back rooms where they live are undisturbed. They dig out the meat locker to discover the three men and Lily’s dog frozen to death.
Pauline says as a kind of summary, from an unspecified period of time in the future, that “Power travels in bloodlines, handed out before birth,” which implies that Fleur was responsible for the deaths of the men. She says that now she is about the only one who visits Fleur, who lives on Lake Turcot and may have married the water spirit Misshepeshu or taken up with white men or “windigos” (evil demons), unless she has “killed them all.” Fleur has had a child, but no one knows for sure who fathered it. Pauline emphasizes that old men talk about the story over and over but, in the end, “only know that they don’t know anything.”
Erdrich frequently refers to Fleur’s sexuality and her good looks, beginning with her description of Fleur’s drowning. Fleur’s interactions with the waterman/spirit can be understood, in part, as a metaphor for her sexual development; Misshepeshu is a “love-hungry,” sexual creature connected to Fleur’s own sexual powers. Fleur is characterized as androgynous and fishlike: “her hands large, chapped, muscular, Fleur’s shoulders were broad as beams, her hips fishlike, slippery, narrow.” Fleur’s daring personality, which fascinates and infuriates the men at the butcher shop, exudes from her sexuality, particularly during the night when she is raped. She wears a tight, transparent dress and gives the men a “wolfish” grin when she wins the card game; in response the men try to convince themselves of their power over her by violating her sexually. Fleur returns to Lake Turcot where she has a child and is visited only by Pauline (although, apparently, some say she has relations with white men or Chippewa spirits). Though she has a child, she is not married, and she lives independently, apart from male control. The men who attempt to take possession of her, either by saving her or raping her, die.
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Racism and Sexism
The men at Kozka’s Meats resent Fleur because she is capable, strong, beats them at cards (thus spoiling their chief source of pleasure), and because she is a Native American. Tor calls her a “squaw,” or a Native American woman, as an insult, and the men believe that they should be superior to her intellectually and physically simply because of their male gender. Erdrich’s story dramatizes white racism and male sexist beliefs, especially as these apply to Great Plains Native Americans. “Fleur” enacts the racism and sexism common in the 1920s that resulted in severe abuse and injustice.
One of the most important themes in Erdrich’s story is that of female power. The situation at Kozka’s Meats is somewhat like a battle between the sexes, in which Fleur, Pauline, and Fritzie have their own methods of dealing with a brutish, dangerous group of men. Daring and fearless Fleur is the most overt wielder of female power, as Pauline emphasizes throughout the story. Fleur seems to draw this power from ancient Chippewa spirits, medicines, and charms, as well as her sexuality. This may be a reason why the men rape her, to maintain what they perceive as their rightful control over her, because they are sexist and masochistic. In the end, they realize they cannot understand or control her.
The fact that Pauline locks the three men in the meat locker indicates that she too has power, the ability to remain out of sight and then take revenge at the right moment. Unlike Fleur, Pauline Themes is meek and insecure, unable to stand up for herself or for Fleur at the crucial time. Nevertheless, Fleur and Pauline connect, both in Argus and after Fleur leaves Argus. They have two different kinds of female power, one direct and confrontational, the other indirect and secretive. Fritzie, able to control her husband and censor him effectively, illustrates a third kind of female power, which is that of a wife over her husband.
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