121 pages 4 hours read

Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Important Quotes

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“Watching the night sky, he was Thomas who had learned about the stars in boarding school. He was also Wazhashk who had learned about the stars from his grandfather, the original Wazhashk.”


(Chapter 3, Page 17)

Sometimes characters speak in Chippewa, and Erdrich does not provide a translation, though enough context around it lends itself to understanding. Eventually, readers learn that Thomas’s surname means “muskrat.” Thomas frequently returns to his family’s history to trace how his people have long had to struggle against assimilationist policies to survive.

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“Someday, a watch. Patrice longed for an accurate way to keep time. Because time did not exist at her house. Or rather, it was the keeping of time as in school or work time that did not exist. There was a small brown alarm clock on the stool beside her bed, but it lost five minutes on the house. She had to compensate when setting it and if she once forgot to wind it, all was lost. Her job was dependent on getting a ride to work. […] If she didn’t get a ride, it was thirteen miles of gravel road. She couldn’t get sick. If she got sick, there was no telephone to let anybody know. She would be fired. Life would go back to zero.”


(Chapter 4, Page 20)

Patrice feels constant pressure to provide for her family. As the quote demonstrates, one simple day of being sick could result in her family losing their entire income. She must be very careful and meticulous to ensure that she will be able to continue to work at the jewel bearing plant so that she can support her them all.

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“There were times when Patrice felt like she was stretched across a frame, like a skin tent. She tried to forget that she could easily blow away. Or how easily her father could wreck them all. This feeling of being the only barrier between family and disaster wasn’t new, but they had come so far since she started work.”


(Chapter 4, Page 30)

As the primary earner for their family, Patrice is saddled with the pressure of having to provide. Rarely is she able to make decisions for only herself. Patrice constantly puts herself last, even allowing Wood Mountain to pursue Vera when Patrice was thinking of him while in Washington. By the novel’s end, she gains more autonomy, and can hopefully start saving for school if Millie’s funding comes through to pay Zhaanat.

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