"Fleur" by Louise Erdrich


Fleur seems to be some totem for the power of women. Local folklore credits Fleur with the death of two men—she seems to absorb the power of men to keep living. She becomes a somewhat androgynous figure. The narrator describes her as:

Her cheeks were wide and flat, her hands large, chapped, muscular. Fleur’s shoulders were were broad as beams, her hips fishlike, slippery, narrow. An old green dress clung to her waist, worn thin where she sat. Her braids were thick like the tails of animals, and swung against her when she moved, deliberately, slowly in her work, held in and half-tamed, but only half.

Her appearance seems somewhat masculine, with her large muscular hands, narrow hips, and her braids that make the narrator consider her only “half-tamed.” Fleur is also rumored to keep “the finger of a child in her pocket and a powder of unborn rabbits in a leather thong around her neck,” which suggests a certain disrespect for the feminine “creative” power. However, Fleur is a very gentle, maternal figure toward the narrator. The narrator remembers she “was lifted, soothed, cradled in a woman’s arms, and rocked so quiet that [she] kept [her] eyes shut while Fleur rolled [her] into a closet of grimy ledgers, oiled paper, balls of string, and thick files that fit beneath me like a mattress.” And, at the end of the story, Fleur has a child.

Fleur seems like a woman warrior of sorts. She wrestles power from the men with whom she plays poker and when they try to take their money back, she, presumably, kills them. These incidents cause me to wonder about the two times that she escaped death by drowning. Did the other men that she killed have similar nefarious intentions as the poker players? After their deaths, Fleur creates a life for herself outside of the mainstream. And the narrator, who once considered herself invisible, is finally seen.


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