121 pages 4 hours read

Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Chapters 1-10Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary: “Turtle Mountain Jewel Bearing Plant”

Thomas Wazhashk arrives in his office for his shift as the night watchman at the Mountain Jewel Bearing Plant. He goes on patrol.

The narration shifts to how Turtle Mountain women work in a factory, noting that “[t]his was the first time there had ever been manufacturing jobs near the reservation and women filled most of these coveted positions. They had scored much higher on tests for manual dexterity” (3). The government believes this is because Indigenous woman worked with beads, but Thomas thinks that it was because their vision is sharp.

Thomas finishes his patrol and returns to his desk, where he will “read, white, cogitate, and from time to time slap himself awake” (4). He was named for the muskrat, “wazhashk,” an important animal because “[i]n the beginning, after the great flood, it was a muskrat who had helped remake the earth” (4). The chapter closes by noting that Thomas is perfectly named.

Chapter 2 Summary: “Lard on Bread”

The focus shifts to Patrice Paranteau, who has always been called “Pixie” because of her elfin eyes. She is trying to get others to use her full name because she is now an adult working in a factory. She also thinks that she “was above petty incidents like Bucky Duvalle and his friends giving her that ride to nowhere, telling people how she’d been willing to do something she had not done” (5).

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