Study Guide

Zelda Kashpaw in Love Medicine

By Louise Erdrich

Zelda Kashpaw

Here's the legend of Zelda: she's Albertine's mother and Marie's daughter. Zelda is a tough customer and seems to find faults galore in others. Probably at least in part because of these qualities, she and Albertine don't have the best relationship. Reflecting on her mother's attitude, Albertine muses,

She should have gone up the nun's hill to the convent, like she wanted, instead of having me. But she had married Swede Johnson from off-reservation, and I'd arrived premature. (1.2.15)

So, we guess that gives us some idea of why she might resent Albertine so much for running away, if she gave up her convent dreams to have her.

Speaking of that resentment, Zelda finds lots of ways to make Albertine aware of her displeasure—if you looked up "passive aggressive" in the dictionary, you'd probably find Zelda's picture.

The best example is the fact that Zelda didn't bother to tell Albertine that June was dead until after the funeral, since (she claimed) Albertine wasn't likely to make it home from school for that kind of thing. As Albertine said,

Between my mother and myself the abuse was slow and tedious, requiring long periods of dormancy, living in the blood like hepatitis. When it broke out it was almost a relief. (1.2.2)

Brrr, that sounds like a chilly relationship. Pro-tip: don't cross Zelda.

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