In the novel Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, many characters are introduced and their pasts and presents are revealed. There is one character, Lipsha Morrissey, who unfolds in the last chapters of the novel. He is important to the text because he appears in the chapter entitled “Love Medicine.” He is the focus of this chapter because he plays a vital role between the affects that the medicine of love can have on people and what happens when it goes wrong.
Defining Love Medicine and The Touch
Love medicine is a healing force that some people have a natural gift for. Lipsha says: “I know the trick of the mind and body inside and out without ever having trained for it, because I got the touch. It’s a thing you got to be born with” (231). Lipsha uses this gift to help others. For example, he helps to ease the pains of older people: “I take my fingers and I snap them on the knots. The medicine flows out of me. The touch. I run my fingers up the maps of those rivers of veins…and it helps them” (231). Lipsha obviously likes to help people because he is said to think with his heart, “That ain’t stupidity, … Their brain’s just in their heart, like yours is” (251). This gives an explanation as to why Lipsha is so kind and willing to help people.
Lipsha also tries to use the medicine of love to help the relationship between his grandparents. His grandfather does not share the same extent of love as his grandmother anymore. The grandmother wants Lipsha to use the touch to make the grandfather stay at home with her and strengthen their bond: “Grandma tried to get me to put the touch on grandpa soon after he began stepping out” (232). Lipsha's touch was not enough to change the behavior of his grandfather, and that is when love medicine needed to be used. As explained in the novel, love medicine is not something to take lightly, “You got to think it over. Choose the right one. You could really mess up your life grinding up the wrong little thing” (241). This is true because Lipsha finds out what happens when he did not use the proper ingredients needed to make his love medicine.
Not Respecting Love Medicine
Lipsha starts out with the right idea for the love medicine for his grandparents. Lipsha wanted to shoot a male and female bird and have his grandparents eat the hearts together after the hearts have been blessed by a priest. When Lipsha could not shoot a bird, he resorted to other means: “I took an evil shortcut. I looked at birds that were dead and froze” (245). Lipsha knows that this might result in diminishing the effects of the love medicine, but he did not care at that point: “I ignored all the danger, all the limits, for I was tired of sitting… I told myself love medicine was simple. I told myself the old superstitions were just that-strange beliefs” (245). By doing this, Lipsha convinces himself that love medicine works by faith, not by the fact that it is an old superstition, “I finally convinced myself that the real power to the love medicine was not the goose heart itself but the faith in the cure” (246). This approach to the idea of love medicine leads to other problems.
When Lipsha goes to get the hearts blessed by a priest, the priest does not do it because he is too busy. Lipsha understands that a blessing by a nun reduces the affects of the love medicine, but he is desperate. When he approaches the Sister and explaines that the medicine is for love, she misunderstands what the blessing is for: “You don’t need any medicine. I’m sure any girl would like you exactly the way you are” (247). The Sister also refuses to give the blessing, so Lipsha is forced to take holy water and bless the hearts himself. This only diminishes the effects of the love medicine even more.
Good Intentions: Negative Outcome
Lipsha returns home with the defective love medicine and tries to put it into effect. Unfortunately, the grandfather did not want to eat the heart because he felt something was being done behind his back: “She knew that he knew she was working medicine… I don’t want to eat this” (249). The grandfather is skeptical and has every reason to be. The problem is, in order for the medicine to work, both grandparents must eat the hearts. The grandmother decides to take the matter into her own hands, “She… slugged [the grandfather] between the shoulderblades to make him swallow… Only thing is, he choked” (250). The grandfather chokes so bad that he choked to death.
The death of Lipsha’s grandfather forces him to realize that love medicine is not something to take lightly. In his epiphany, he states, “Maybe I can’t admit what I did. My touch had gone worthless, that is true” (250). As much as Lipsha wanted to help his grandparents, tampering with a medicine so strong ended in tragedy. But there is a bit of irony. The love medicine worked better than they ever thought: “It’s the love medicine, my Lipsha… It was stronger than we thought. He came back even after death to claim me to his side” (255). The grandmother and Lipsha achieved their goal, but because Lipsha tampered with the original medicine, the results were not what they expected.
Lipsha obviously learned a lesson. Love medicine is not something to take lightly. Lipsha is an essential character because he shows the effects of love medicine and what happens when it is not used properly. Louise Erdrich needs Lipsha to show love medicine being used and how it actually comes to life. Lipsha becomes a central character because his ability to use the touch and love medicine shows the power of not only him, but also his heritage.
Interviews with Louise Erdrich by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Louise Erdrich on Bill Moyers’ Journal
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Cite This Essay
Bradberry, Stephanie. Lipsha Morrissey Has The Touch and Love Medicine. HubPages, 2011. Web. Today’s date.
Bradberry, S. (2011). Lipsha Morrissey has the touch and love medicine. Retrieved from
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on July 14, 2018:
Hello Gilbert. Thanks for reading and offering your insight!
Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on July 10, 2018:
Love faith healing is a fascinating theme through the ages. You novel summary indicates an interesting read.