Mentorship: From Childhood to the Man
Louise Erdrich explores the inner conflicts of an Indian tribe in her novel Tracks. By the end of the novel, the tribes’ accord is broken by the lure of the white man’s money and land reform. The divisions among the tribe are epitomized by the physical separation of the Chippewa people into different colors that correspond to their different land allotments. However, one chapter in particular contrasts with the tribe’s tendency towards discord. Chapter 5, in which Nanapush and Eli overcome their differences and unite in an attempt to avoid starvation lends hope to the ominous series of events throughout Tracks which show conflict developing from unity. The great snow storm they experience together not only binds them but forces Eli to turn to his Chippewa roots in order to survive. Thus, the true lessons of life can be learned through the mentorship of one man’s life becoming transparent though one another.
In Chapter 5, we see the climax of the relationship between Nanapush and Eli. Like everybody else in the book, Eli shows up at Nanapush’ residence to seek wise counsel. Unfortunately for Eli, Nanapush is not amazed by the adversities in which Eli is experiencing. We see this within the beginning of the chapter. We see the inner child of Eli, trying to get the attention of the man, Nanapush. Eli tries to gain Nanapush’ attention; by making comments under his breath and banging his head against the table. All the while Nanapush is attentive, but is also not entertaining the temper tantrum of the child. The eruptions through the dialogue finally spring out when Eli starts with, “How much a man endures?” Nanapush’ response is small but powerful by simply stating, “What Man?” (p.97) Nanapush recognizes right off the bat that Eli is looking for a pity party, but is not willing to accept the invitation. I think that the interpretation here is very strong because Nanapush is going through his own personal struggles from within that he now has a decision to make. Does he write Eli off and deal with his own issues or does he put his own issues aside and deal with Eli? Instead of the typical either or, he incorporated the two issues. He addressed the issue of land ownership and illiteracy amongst the people of the tribe to Eli, as well as helping him the concept that Fleur wasn’t going to stop living her life because he wasn’t around in her life anymore either.
But Eli still didn’t bounce back to reality just yet, there were still more lessons to be learned. For instance, coming over to another man’s house as a visitor and eating up all of his food. The book records that 6 days later that they were without food. And Nanapush new that first in order to survive, one must have nutritional food. Nanapush wasn’t going to sit there and starve to death because of one man agony. He believed it was time for Eli to face his adversities head on, and deal with consequences at they followed. This is a wonderful part in the...