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The Irony of Fleur
Unlike Voltaireís Candide, the name of the main character of Louise Erdrichís Fleur does not give the
reader a clue about the characterís personality. In French, fleur means flower which is the symbol of love,
romanticism and feminine fragility. However, in the story the name and the actions of Fleur Pillager show
irony. In my view, Erdrich creates the irony deliberately, in order to emphasize on the gender conflicts in
Right at the introduction of the story, Fleur is shown as the reason for the death of two men: "By saving
Fleur Pillager, those two men had lost them selves" (2). This line is just the sign of the scary description of
Fleur, which is beyond our expectation, in paragraph six: "She messed with evilÖSome says she kept the
finger of a child in her pocket and the powder of unborn rabbits around in a leather tong around her neck."
This description of Fleur creates in this readerís mind a portrait of an old ugly witch. Indeed, throughout
the whole story the reader is surprised repeatedly with the descriptions of Fleur Pillager. Starting from
paragraph eighteen we see Fleur playing cards with men and working in the slaughterhouse. After reading
the introduction of the story,
the reader is ready to expect from Fleur more destructive and wild actions than playing carts and killing
animals. However, Fleur only does what men usually do.
The rest of the story is about male and female conflict. The author of the story presents conflict in an ironic
way in many different parts of the scene where Fleur and men play cards: "Lily could not believe first of all
that a woman could be smart enough to play cards, but even she was, that she would then be stupid enough
to cheat for a dollar at night" (36). The irony behind this line is that the author is already convinced us that
Fleur is not fragile like women but she is very strong and daring. However, the four men in the story do not
know that. By watching the reaction of the men to Fleurís actions we are ready to celebrate the victory of a
woman in a manís world. Even though her name symbolizes everything that a man can expect from a
woman, Fleur does opposite of those expectations.
Is it possible to tie all the ironic instances of the story together? One last example hints at the connection.
At the last paragraph of the story, after Fleur has been raped, she leaves the town and bears a child. Pauline
comes to visit her and she describes the baby as: "The girl is bold, smiling in her sleep, as if she knows
what people wander, as if she hears the old men talk, turning the story over. It comes up different every
time and has no ending no beginning" (70). This line explains us the purpose of the writer in writing the
story in such a ironic way: Erdrich tries to show us how women
are neglected and ignored in the society. The example that the writer uses is stronger than most women.
Fleur scares people; plays cards and beats the men in their game; and kills animals. All signs of irony that
the author uses in the story are used to make us believe that Fleur will succeed. But at the end she becomes
mother of a child and returns back to the Lake Turcot where everything started. Fleur is a woman, and like
many other women in the society she wanted to be someone; however, it is hard to defeat a man in a manís
world. And I think that is what this story is all about.
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Comedy, Fiction, Humour, Irony, Theme, Louise Erdrich, Fleur, Nine
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