Log In Start studying!

Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|
Antelope Wife
Illustration

Lerne mit deinen Freunden und bleibe auf dem richtigen Kurs mit deinen persönlichen Lernstatistiken

Jetzt kostenlos anmelden

Nie wieder prokastinieren mit unseren Lernerinnerungen.

Jetzt kostenlos anmelden
Illustration

Everything we do has an effect. It can ripple through the generations like a spider plucking its web, impacting people in places and times removed from our own. In her multi-generational, nonlinear novel The Antelope Wife (1998) which spans decades, Louise Erdrich shows how our choices can have an impact we might never have expected.

The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

Born in Little Falls, Minnesota, in 1954, author Louise Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. She spent time in her youth visiting family members who lived on a nearby reservation, and in college, she took Native American Studies classes. These experiences influenced Erdrich’s focus on Native American themes in her writing.

Erdrich gained a reputation in the literary world for her first book, Love Medicine (1984). Since then, she has written many award-winning books. One of those is The Antelope Wife, which was first published as Antelope Woman in 1998; Louise Erdrich later revised and republished the novel under the new title, The Antelope Wife, in 2016. As many of Erdrich’s works do, The Antelope Wife explores the modern Native American experience as well as Native American history and traditions.

The Antelope Wife, at the time published under the title Antelope Woman, won the 1999 World Fantasy Award.

The Antelope Wife: Summary

The novel begins with a folktale of twin sisters whose beadwork creates the world. They are rivals—one beads with light and the other with darkness—and each tries to work faster than the other. Their work symbolizes how everything in the world is connected.

Next, Erdrich introduces Scranton Roy. He is a post-American Civil War cavalryman who takes part in a military-backed attack on an Ojibwe Native American village. In the attack, Scranton kills an elderly woman. Then, upset by what he has done, he rescues a baby from the attack and raises her as his own. He names her Mathilda.

Mathilda’s mother, Blue Prairie Woman, is broken-hearted at her daughter’s disappearance. After ten years of searching, leaving behind her other children, she finally finds Mathilda and plans to take her back to the village. However, she tragically dies before they arrive. Mathilda then sees a strange herd of antelope. She follows them, joining the herd.

Antelope Wife, Minneapolis skyline with green space in the foreground, StudySmarterMuch of the book takes place in Minnesota in the 1990s. Pixabay

Erdrich now introduces characters living in 1990s Minnesota. Klaus, a powwow trader, sees four unusual women at an event. They are called the antelope women—descendants of Mathilda, who married an antelope in the herd she joined. Klaus kidnaps one of the antelope women named Sweetheart Calico. He develops a crazed attraction to her that leads him to kidnap her—taking her away from her children and the prairie she loved. Erdrich calls this Windigo love.

What is a Windigo? In Louise Erdrich’s poem “Windigo” (1984), she describes them as “a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it. In some Chippewa stories, a young girl vanquishes this monster by forcing boiling lard down its throat, thereby releasing the human at the core of ice.” (“Windigo,” epigraph)

Why do you think Erdrich chose to compare Klaus’s love for Sweetheart Calico to a Windigo?

Klaus brings Sweetheart Calico to urban Minneapolis. She is strange—she never speaks, she escapes repeatedly but always returns, and she sometimes leaves hoofprints instead of human footprints. Her unusual, supernatural-seeming ways drive Klaus mad, leading him to become a homeless alcoholic.

Sweetheart Calico moves in with Klaus’s brother Frank. Sweetheart Calico seems to draw people to where they are meant to be—for good or bad. In this way, she catches the attention of a mixed Ojibwe woman named Rozin. Rozin and Frank quickly fall in love, though Rozin is already married to a man named Richard. Tragedy strikes when Frank is diagnosed with cancer. Rozin decides to leave Richard to be with Frank, and in his grief, Richard attempts suicide. Though he decides not to go through with it, he has already unknowingly caused one of his twin daughters, Deanna, to suffocate.

For years, Rozin will not even see Frank because she feels that her infidelity caused her daughter’s accident. During this time, Richard spirals due to his grief and guilt. He ends up an alcoholic on the streets with Klaus.

Eventually, Rozin does decide to marry Frank—and then Richard kills himself in front of them. On the other hand, Klaus survives a close encounter with death and then decides to quit drinking and release Sweetheart Calico. Sweetheart Calico is not in good shape, her spirit having been broken from the years bound to Klaus. Despite this, she is once again free.

Cally, Deanna’s surviving twin sister, has been examining these family stories. She wants to connect to her heritage and find her identity. Her grandmother, Zosie, helps by giving her a spirit name—a traditional name given to Ojibwe people that has power connected to it. After receiving her name, Cally has a vision. She sees how life patterns exist in urban Minneapolis just as they did with her ancestors in the prairie; they might look different, but they still weave everyone together. With this vision, Cally finally feels connected to her heritage and her own identity.

The novel ends by circling back to the post-American Civil War Ojibwe village. Years after participating in the village’s destruction, Scranton Roy returns to it, bringing his grandson Augustus. Scranton begs for forgiveness for killing the old woman. Though he is forgiven, his guilt overwhelms him, and he commits suicide.

Augustus decides to stay in the village. He marries Zosie, one of the children Blue Prairie Woman left behind when searching for Mathilda. They had several children together—and their line passed down the effects of Scranton and Blue Prairie Woman’s actions, leading to the events that unfolded in Minnesota in the 1990s.

Antelope Wife: Characters

  • Scranton Roy is a cavalryman in the post-Civil War US. He kills an old woman in an Ojibwe village, then adopts the baby Mathilda. Years later, he returns to the village for forgiveness but kills himself regardless.
  • Blue Prairie Woman is an Ojibwe woman whose daughters include Mathilda and Zosie. Blue Prairie Woman abandons her other children in the village to search for Mathilda. She dies while bringing Mathilda back to the village.
  • Mathilda is the baby that was saved from the destruction of the Ojibwe village by Scranton. Blue Prairie Woman, Mathilda’s mother, finds her but dies before they return to the village, and Mathilda joins a herd of antelope. She eventually marries an antelope and gives birth to strange daughters called antelope women.
  • Augustus is Scranton Roy’s grandson. He goes with Scranton to the Ojibwe village when Scranton seeks forgiveness. Augustus chooses to stay there and marries Zosie.
  • Klaus is Augustus’s son. He kidnaps Sweetheart Calico and has an unhealthy, one-sided love for her. He is driven mad by her and ends up homeless and addicted to alcohol until he decides to set her free.
  • Sweetheart Calico is a strange, supernatural-seeming daughter of Mathilda and an antelope. She tends to influence people to go where they are meant to be, for example, how she influenced Rozin to meet Frank, although the consequences are not always positive. Her spirit is broken by years bound to Klaus, but she is eventually free to return to her home.
  • Cally is Richard and Rozin’s daughter and Deanna’s twin sister. She learns about her family history to connect to her heritage and find her identity.
  • Rozin is a mixed Ojibwe woman. Sweetheart Calico leads her to meet Frank, who she falls in love with. For years she won’t marry Frank because she thinks her infidelity led to Deanna’s death.
  • Frank is Klaus’s brother. Sweetheart Calico stays in his home when Klaus becomes homeless; she then causes Rozin and Frank to meet.
  • Richard is Rozin’s husband. He tries to commit suicide when he learns that she wants to leave him for Frank but ends up accidentally causing his daughter’s death. Years later, he kills himself when Rozin finally does marry Frank.
  • Deanna is Richard and Rozin’s daughter and Cally’s twin sister. She dies accidentally when Richard attempts suicide.

The Antelope Wife: Analysis

The Antelope Wife is grounded in the real world—real history, politics, and experiences. However, it also features magical elements inspired by Erdrich’s Native American heritage. This inclusion of magic in an otherwise realistic novel means that The Antelope Wife is a work of magical realism.

Antelope Wife, four pronghorn antelope grazing, StudySmarter Part of the novel’s magical realism comes from Mathilda marrying an antelope. Pixabay.

Magical realism is literature that is mostly realistic but includes some magical elements. These elements are often included to aid in the thematic explorations in the book.

Other famous examples of magical realism include One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez, Midnight's Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie, and Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston.

Antelope Wife is also a work of Native American Literature because it focuses on Native American experiences from the voice of a Native American author.

Native American Literature is literature written by Native American authors about the Native American experience. Typical themes include Native American culture, tradition, and experience in the modern day.

Structure

Louise Erdrich broke this novel into four sections. Each section contains stories from the perspective of different generations of people who are all connected to one another. However, the stories are not told in linear order.

Part one, titled “Bayzhig,” focuses on the incidents that first intertwined the families of Blue Prairie Woman and Scranton Roy. It is set not long after the American Civil War. Part two, “Niizh,” takes place in the 1990s in Minnesota. It focuses on Klaus and Calico Sweetheart and also introduces Rozin, Richard, and their twin girls.

“Niswi,” the third part of the novel, explains the disconnection that Cally feels from her heritage. Additionally, in this section Sweetheart Calico’s behavior becomes more unusual and even frightening. The final section is titled “Niiwin.” It contains more information about past events and how they connect to Cally’s struggle for identity. Cally receives her name and finds her identity, and Sweetheart Calico is released.

In some Native American cultures, time is seen as circular rather than linear. This can be seen in The Antelope Wife, in which each generation’s story can begin and end at any point in the narrative, looping back around and connecting to other people’s stories in other times.

Symbolism

Louise Erdrich uses beadwork, a traditional art considered to be very special in some Native American cultures, as a symbol in her book The Antelope Wife. Erdrich uses the image of twin sisters sewing beadwork to represent the ongoing creation of the world and life. The individual beads and patterns are woven together in a larger pattern with no real beginning or end. This symbolizes how each individual is an important part of the world and also joined with every other part.

Antelope Wife: Themes

Louise Erdrich covers several themes in her novel The Antelope Wife. Three of the main themes are the interconnectedness of the world, tradition and identity, and Windigo love.

The Interconnectedness of the World

In The Antelope Wife, Louise Erdrich illustrates how everything and everyone is connected. This is an important concept in her Native American culture. One of the ways that she highlights this connectedness is through the symbolism of beadwork—the twin sisters sewing individual beads into a pattern that connects each of them to all the others. Additionally, Erdrich connects each character to the others through familial ties, cultural identity, and the choices of ancestors echoing through the years and affecting the present. In this way, Erdrich shows how every being and every choice has an impact on the world.

Tradition and Identity

Identity is a major issue for some characters in Louise Erdrich’s The Antelope Wife. Many of the characters feel separated from the traditions of their Native American heritage, making it difficult for them to understand their own identity fully. This issue is sometimes made worse by urbanization. As places become more urban, they often become less connected to tradition and nature.

One example of characters in The Antelope Wife finding their identity through tradition is Cally. She has felt separated from her heritage since birth and was never given the spirit name customary in her culture. When she finally receives a name from her grandmother, it helps her to reconnect to her heritage. Cally also has a vision in which she sees that, even though the patterns in the beadwork of life are different now than they once were, they are still there. Even in an urban city, the beadwork connects everyone. After this, Cally feels fully connected to her heritage and identity.

Windigo Love

Louise Erdrich uses the Windigo to describe a kind of unhealthy love—a love that is selfish and cold. This kind of love can be seen in the relationship between Klaus and Sweetheart Calico. Klaus kidnaps Sweetheart Calico, wanting to take her for himself. Their relationship is not reciprocal, and she has lost her freedom. This kind of love is akin to the legend of the Windigo, which is like a demon feeding on others for its own gain. Erdrich shows throughout the novel how this kind of love is unhealthy, and it is only set right when Klaus chooses to set Sweetheart Calico free.

Antelope Wife: Quotes

The following quote is from the perspective of Klaus. He has just kidnapped Sweetheart Calico and is describing the unhealthy love he has for her—what might be called Windigo love. He thinks that he loves her, but his love is unhealthy for them both. He refuses to let her be free, and her strange ways drive him mad. Calico Sweetheart attempts multiple times to escape, but she cannot run away from his Windigo love; he has to release her.

Our love is a hurting delicacy, an old killer whiskey, a curse, and too beautiful for words.” (Ch 2)

The quote below is part of the theme of interconnectedness that runs throughout The Antelope Wife. Erdrich describes how everything a person does or creates eventually has an opposite effect. For example, a mother’s creation of new life will eventually lead to that being’s death by the very nature of life.

All of our actions have in their doing the seed of their undoing. ... That in her creation of her children there should be the unspeakable promise of their death, for by their birth she had created mortal beings.” (Ch 6)

A major theme in The Antelope Wife is the interconnectedness of the world. The following quote from a folk tale included at the beginning of section two of the novel illustrates this idea. Erdrich uses the image of beadwork to describe interconnectedness; the beads are woven together in patterns without real beginnings or ends. Each bead influences the pattern, and humans themselves are part of the craft just as much as any other creature.

The pattern glitters with cruelty. The blue beads are colored with fish blood, the reds with powdered heart. The beads collect in borders of mercy. The yellows are dyed with the ocher of silence. There is no telling which twin will fall asleep first, allowing the other's colors to dominate, for how long. The design grows, the overlay deepens. The beaders have no other order at the heart of their being. Do you know that the beads are sewn onto the fabric of the earth with endless strands of human muscle, human sinew, human hair? We are as crucial to this making as other animals. No more and no less important than the deer.” (Part 2, “Neej”)


The Antelope Wife - Key takeaways

  • The Antelope Wife is a novel by Louise Erdrich published in 1998.
  • The novel The Antelope Wife is magical realism as well as Native American Literature, and Louise Erdrich was inspired by her own Native American heritage to write this book.
  • The book is multi-generational, is told from multiple perspectives, and is told non-linearly.
  • Major themes of The Antelope Wife include the interconnectedness of the world, tradition and identity, and Windigo love.
  • Beadwork is used as a symbol of the interconnectedness of the world in The Antelope Wife.

Frequently Asked Questions about Antelope Wife

The Antelope Wife is a multi-generational story of families intertwined by history, heritage, and the choices that echo through the decades.

The Antelope Wife deals with multiple generations of characters. It weaves together the threads of different people's lives who are all connected by the actions of their shared ancestors.

Major themes in Antelope Wife include the interconnectedness of the world, tradition and identity, and Windigo love.

The author of The Antelope Wife is Louise Erdrich. 

One of the main messages in The Antelope Wife is that all of our choices have consequences—for us and also for others, even sometimes lasting through generations.

Final Antelope Wife Quiz

Antelope Wife Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

Who wrote The Antelope Wife?

Show answer

Answer

Louise Erdrich

Show question

Question

In what year was The Antelope Wife published?

Show answer

Answer

1998

Show question

Question

Which of the following are major themes of The Antelope Wife?

Show answer

Answer

Tradition and Identity

Show question

Question

What is the significance of the folktale about the twin sisters making beadwork?

Show answer

Answer

It symbolizes the creation of the world and how everything is connected together.

Show question

Question

Why did Scranton Roy kill the elderly woman?

Show answer

Answer

He was a cavalryman in a military attack on the Ojibwe village.

Show question

Question

Why did Scranton Roy return to the Ojibwe village years later?

Show answer

Answer

He wanted to ask for forgiveness for killing the elderly woman.

Show question

Question

Why did Mathilda join an antelope herd?

Show answer

Answer

Her mother, Blue Prairie Woman, died before she got Mathilda back to the Ojibwe village. Mathilda then saw strange antelope and followed them.

Show question

Question

Who are the antelope women?

Show answer

Answer

Descendants of Mathilda and the antelope she married.

Show question

Question

What drives Klaus mad?

Show answer

Answer

The strange things about Sweetheart Calico. She has some supernatural characteristics.

Show question

Question

What happens to Deanna?

Show answer

Answer

She dies accidentally when Richard attempts suicide.

Show question

Question

How does Rozin meet Frank?

Show answer

Answer

Sweetheart Calico has a supernatural way of drawing people to where they are meant to be. Intrigued by her, Rozin sees Frank and they quickly fall in love.

Show question

Question

True or false: Sweetheart Calico cannot leave until Klaus releases her.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What makes Cally feel connected to her heritage and identity?

Show answer

Answer

Zosie gives her a traditional spirit name, and Cally has a vision that shows her that even in urban places everyone is connected. 

Show question

Question

Who married Zosie?

Show answer

Answer

Augustus, Scranton Roy’s grandson. Rozin is their daughter.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Antelope Wife quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

Get FREE ACCESS to all of our study material, tailor-made!

Over 10 million students from across the world are already learning smarter.

Get Started for Free
Illustration