Two Lives Paralleled By God Essay, Research Paper
Two Lives Paralleled by God
In the book Tracks, written by Louise Erdrich we meet various characters, including Pauline. As we hear stories about her life and circumstances that she encountered and overcame, we gain insight into the life of a woman who fought to gain acceptance in a world where no one would accept her. As Erdrich wrote the book she based the life of Pauline on a Native American historical figure, Tekawitha Kateri. When looking at the lives of these two women we can see the many similarities in their lives, but also many differences that make them unique from each other.
As children, Tekawitha and Pauline grew up without the aid of their parents. At age fifteen, Pauline asked her father to send her away to go to live with his sister. Pauline wanted to be like her mother who was half – white and like her grandfather who was pure Canadian. Her father obeyed her wish and sent her away to her aunt. Like Pauline Tekawitha grew up with out parents. When the whites came to the Americas they ??brought sickness with them and many of the Indian people died? (Tekawitha 1). This was the case with Tekawitha?s parents. They both died of a sickness when Tekawitha was only four years old. Soon after, she went to live with her uncle (Tekawitha 1)
As Pauline and Tekawitha grew up, they sought a life of Catholicism. They both sought it in similar yet unique ways. Tekawitha was introduced to the religion when ??men came to the village where Tekawitha lived (Tekawitha 2). Tekawitha listened to what the men had had to say about God?s son and how he showed the people how to live in peace. For eight years the ?black robes?, as they were called, came to Tekawitha?s village teaching and baptizing the people. Tekawitha wanted to be baptized but feared displeasing her uncle. Finally she did get baptized. As time progressed some of her people thought that she was betraying them and ??going over to the whites? (Tekawitha 2). She tried to keep the attitude that things would change for the better but with the passing of time realized that it would not. ?She decided that it would be better if she left her home? (Tekawitha 2). She traveled to a Christian village and there spent the rest of her life.
Like Tekawitha, Pauline also left her home and went to live with the nuns and soon became one herself. It all happened suddenly when Pauline became pregnant by Napoleon. Pauline rejected the baby all along even attempting to kill herself and the baby. Bernadette convinced Pauline to do no such thing and to have the baby. When the baby was born Pauline gave the baby to Bernadette. Pauline named the baby ?Marie? for the Virgin Mary? (133). After recovering from the delivery Pauline left and went to the convent where she would in time become a nun herself.
In Tekawitha and Pauline?s struggle to become as holy and cleansed by god as possible they both practiced rituals to bring them closer to god. Pauline had many awkward rituals such as wearing her shoes on the wrong feet. She wore her shoes on the wrong feet to torture herself. She said ?I suffer for His sake as He did for yours? (146). She also restricted herself to only going to the bathroom two times a day (147). Pauline said that she had a routine:
At night, I did not allow myself to toss or turn for comfort,
but only to sleep on my back, arms crossed on my breasts in the same position as the Virgin received the attentions of our Lord. When I woke I released myself, and then broke the ice on the buckets. I used my hand and no spoon I drank only hot water, took the thinnest cut of bread unless Superior forced hers on me? I put burrs in the armpits of my dress and screw grass in my stockings and needles in my neckband. Superior forced me to turn my shoes the right way around, buy I let my toenails grow until it ached to walk again and each step reminded me of His tread on the path to Calvary? (152)
Pauline did these rituals to be forgiven for her sins. She thought that if she performed these rituals they would bring her to closer to God and cleanse her of her sins. Tekawitha also tortured herself, but for different reasons though. Tekawitha did such things as ??burning herself, standing in the snow, and even whipping herself with branches ? to show her love of Christ? (256). Not only for the love of Christ did she do this. In Tekawitha?s time prisoners were tortured. During the torture the person had to ??remain brave and impassive?enduring pain for personal and family honor? (256). So it was not only for Christ but also to bring honor. Like Pauline, Tekawitha was forced to stop these extreme practices. ?She was ordered by the Jesuits to modify them? (256 ). Just like Pauline was ordered to put her shoes on the right feet by her Superior (152).
Having such strong faith like that of Pauline or Tekawitha gave them the strength to face anything, including death. Because of the differing faiths of the people in Tekawitha?s time, many opposed what she was doing. One day, a warrior tried to scare Tekawitha to stop what she was doing. He picked up a club and tried to kill her with it. She kept her head down and just stayed as still as possible. The courage of Tekawitha impressed the man so much that he did not strike her but only walked away (Tekawitha 3). She was not afraid to die. Instead of feeling sad about dying, ??dying made her feel good? (Tekawitha 3).
Pauline was forced to deal with death when she joined Bernadette in entering the homes where someone was about to die and ??making death welcome? (69). She learned how to get the bodies ready for burial. She must have been as comfortable as Tekawitha was with the concept of dying.
Pauline and Tekawitha loved the woods and the trees. They turned to the woods as a place for meditation and spirituality. Since ??being in harmony with all creation was an Indian value that she had learned early in her life and she held to it always? (Tekawitha 2). Tekawitha went into the woods to spend time with God. Pauline too felt the woods as a place to be in harmony with nature. She fled there after the death of Mary Pepewas. She ran there to escape; she felt it as a place of freedom, to escape the moment, just as Tekawitha had.
Even though Tekawitha and Pauline had left their homes to go and live with the nuns they recognized their native heritage. Pauline realized this when she said ?power travels in the bloodlines, handed out before birth? (31). So it was not what you had become it was what you were born with, that is what is important. When faced with death, Tekawitha was courageous and knew how to face it. She attributed it to ??the true Indian that she was? (Tekawitha 3). She never forgot where she came from. Even though she had this new faith ?she used to sing prayers in the Indian way?? (Tekawitha 3). Her heritage was obviously a central part of her life.
Being of the Catholic faith the cross and rosary were an important aspect of their lives. Tekawitha would go into the woods and make a cross out of sticks. This comforted her to make the cross because it made her ?think about how much Jesus suffered for her? (Tekawitha 3). Tekawitha wore the rosary around her neck always. Within Pauline?s life it seemed that the rosary held different meaning for her. The rosary meant a savior for her and she used it to get rid of something that she felt was not good. Pauline too wore the rosary around her neck just like Tekawitha. Pauline in her attempt to kill the devil actually strangled Napoleon with the rosary. She ??locked on the strong rosary chain, wrenched and twisted the beads close about his neck until his face darkened and he lunged away? (202). She said that she thought that it was the devil but gradually ?it took on the physical form of Napoleon Morrissey? (203).
The historical figure Tekawitha and the fictional character created by Louise Erdrich, Pauline have many paralleled situations. As we can see there are many similarities but also unique ways that make the two almost parallel situations a bit different. Throughout their lives they have encountered many hardships and many inspiring feats. Both Pauline and Tekawitha endured torturing rituals to deem themselves acceptable to God, fled their homes and went to convents, recognized their own heritage when living in another, and had faith so strong that they did not fear the thought of death. Tekawitha even said, ?it is like going home? (Tekawitha 4). As we can see from looking at the events of both of these women?s lives, the writer Erdrich based her fictional character on the life of a real life historical woman Tekawitha who had become a Saint. May we be like these women and never forget where we come from no matter how we choose to live our lives, and have faith such as theirs to overcome any situation that we may encounter.