Exploring Religious Animal Symbolism in Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves

An Exploration of Conflicting Animal Symbolism Between the Colonizer and the Colonized


  • Katelyn Mathew Ball State




In her 2009 novel The Plague of Doves, Louise Erdrich weaves a complex story that demonstrates the attempted erasure of Native American culture and religion through contrasting religious animal motifs. Serpents, doves, and lambs have inherent associations with biblical and some indigenous religions that, together, build a conflict that is reflected by the tension between the occupants of the reservation and by the white characters. For example, the Biblical interpretation of serpents is that they are evil spirited and essentially the embodiment of Satan; however, some religions view serpents as creatures that cast out demons. These contrasting beliefs, along with other examples in the novel, create the religious and spiritual conflict that occurs in the novel as the Native Americans are bombarded with Catholicism and other pressures to abandon their culture. Associating or assigning these animals with religious symbolism to different characters, both white and indigenous, Erdrich enriches the conversation surrounding the conversion of Native Americans to Catholicism and the separation of indigenous peoples with their families and culture by exposing the entitlement and power imbalances present between Native Americans and Westerners.


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How to Cite

Katelyn Mathew. (2024). Exploring Religious Animal Symbolism in Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves: An Exploration of Conflicting Animal Symbolism Between the Colonizer and the Colonized . Digital Literature Review, 11(1), 41–56. https://doi.org/10.33043/a79zb3z77