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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Four Souls

1. At the opening of Four Souls, where is Fleur Pillager and what trail is she following? What motivates her to leave her home? How is her home on the reservation connected to John James Mauser's elegant house in Minneapolis?

2. How would you describe Polly Elizabeth Gheen? What explains her presence at Mauser's house? How does she involve herself with his medical condition?

3. Discuss the myriad attitudes about human sexuality explored in Four Souls in the characters of John and Placide Mauser, Polly Gheen, Fleur Pillager, Nanapush, and Margaret Kashpaw. What is Karezza, and how does it spell doom for the Mausers' marriage?

4. What has John Mauser done to incur Fleur Pillager's wrath? Why does she want him dead, and how does he manage to convert her hate into something else? Did anything in the development of their relationship surprise you?

5. When Nanapush says of Fleur, "There were times we hated who we were, and who we had to become, in order not to follow those we loved into the next world," what does he mean? What roles do ancestors play in Four Souls? How does the figure of Four Souls "live beneath the life" of Fleur Pillager?

6. How does Fleur's pregnancy alter her relationship with Polly Gheen?

7. Describe John James Mauser II. How does his father make sense of his son's condition? How does Fleur use it to her advantage?

8. How does Margaret Kashpaw's desire for linoleum upset the equilibrium of her relationship with Nanapush? How does Nanapush respond to Margaret's decision? Discuss the nature of their relationship. How do honesty and jealousy come into play?

9. What is the significance of Margaret's medicine dress in Four Souls? What is its intended use? What does Nanapush use it for? How does Margaret propose to use it to help Fleur?

10. Nanapush writes: "When I look at the scope and drift of our history, I see that we have come out of it with something, at least. This scrap of earth. This ishkonigan. This left over. We've got this and as long as we can hold on to it we will be some sort of people." What are some of the challenges faced by the Ojibwe people as a whole? Do you see the ending of Four Souls as hopeful? Tragic? Discuss possible interpretations of the ending of the novel.

Four Souls
by Louise Erdrich

  • Publication Date: June 22, 2004
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0066209757
  • ISBN-13: 9780066209753