Study Guide

Love Medicine Drugs and Alcohol

By Louise Erdrich

Drugs and Alcohol

Alcohol abuse is everywhere in Love Medicine, particularly among the male characters, and that definitely contributes to our overall sense that these characters are not happy campers. As Nector himself says, alcohol represented an escape for him as a young man, and it seems like a lot of the other dudes on the reservation felt the same way.

Not surprisingly, alcohol abuse gets worse as the characters get more and more unhappy. Take Gordie, for example, who apparently turned to alcohol after June's death, and ended up so desperate for a high that he did all kinds of dangerous stuff (like driving drunk in search of more liquor, and drinking Lysol).

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Alcohol problems seem to be more prevalent among the male characters—why do you think that is? Does the narrative suggest a reason?
  2. Does the presentation of alcohol abuse change throughout the book? If so, how?
  3. How is alcohol abuse related to some of the novel's other major themes and symbols?

Chew on This

The novel's focus on alcoholism is definitely related to the symbol of water—they call it "drowning your sorrows" when you drink a lot, right? The novel's consistent return to the topic of drowning is definitely related to the characters' use and abuse of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is a big theme because it emphasizes the intensity of the characters' sadness/depression.

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