Swiss philosopher and poet Henri Frederic Amiel once said: “Destiny has two ways of crushing us - by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them”. This phrase closely describes the life path of Lipsha, the main hero of the novel “The Bingo Van”. He feels miserable almost all his life and considers that destiny is not fair to him. At some moment, he became obsessed with thought that having money and new car will make him respected and happy. However, after the destiny fulfills all his wishes, he immediately loses the essential part of himself, which is his healing power. At this point, feeling himself more frustrated and devastated than he was whenever before, Lipsha says: “My hands are shocked out, useless. I am again no more than a simple nothing that I always was before” (Erdrich, 66).
“The Bingo Van” is one of the stories written by Louise Erdrich that are devoted to the Indian culture and tied together by plot line and personages, particularly Lipsha Morrissey. Lipsha from his birth has a magical power. His mother June brought him to a slough and left him there, because she knew that he could not drown. Lipsha inherited magical power from his Pillager bloodline; his hands were blessed with magical, healing touch, and he had mystical access to medicine knowledge of his great-grandmother. However, he did not have the wisdom to use these powers in a proper way, like he did not have the wisdom to choose the right direction in his life. Lipsha is sure that his life is controlled by fate and depends on luck, so he does not rely on his own will and does not have the noble goal to reach for.
What is the sense in life? What makes us happy? What noble goals are worth to be fulfilled and be appreciated by destiny? Which of our intentions and actions should be punished and which should be praiseworthy and rewarded? Louise Erdrich, author of “The Bingo Van”, made her considerable accent on the contrast of values of the temporary material and eternal, spiritual objects. The money, new van, vanity and success reflect the temporary aspects of life. The Indian, native traditions, ancestor’s legacy, family, love, beneficence and friendship represent the eternal and spiritual aspects of life. Lipsha is a highly gifted person, and, actually, he has more than any ordinary person usually has. He has the loving family, beloved woman who loves him. He is a healthy and attractive young man, and he has healing power, but he does not appreciate all these; he thinks that only money, new car and satisfied vanity could turn a despicable man, as he considers himself, into the respected and noble man. Lipsha, like many contemporary men and women, has wrong moral values, and understanding about the true success, respect and dignity. The author underlines Lipsha’s alienation from his Indian roots and his misunderstanding of Indian traditions. He uses his bloodline heritage, his healing power, thoughtlessly, wrongly and for profit. His power was a rare ancestral gift, and he was obliged by his blood to use it unselfishly and not mercenary, for the good of reservation. Nevertheless, Lipsha did not care for the good of Indian reservation and had been taking money from the ill people for his “healing touch” services. Despite the Lipsha’s belief in destiny’s unfairness, the life, actually, gave him a lot of warning signs before it took his healing power away from him. His disbelief and deviation from the old traditions had already cost the life of his foster grandmother’s husband, and it was a quite serious lesson for Lipsha to learn. Lipsha wastes his healing power in the city, and power is temporary taken from him.
Nevertheless, after receiving the news about his father being wanted by the police, Lipsha decides to return to the Indian reservation. There he meets Shawnee Ray and immediately falls in love with her, but she is almost engaged with Lyman Lamartine, one of Lipsha’s relatives who is a hugely successful and wealthy man. Shawnee Ray has a son; she is purposeful and knows what she wants despite she is only seventeen years old. Shawnee Ray has an ambitious dream to launch clothing design line. Therefore, Lipsha decides that to gain Shawnee Ray’s love he needs to become successful and rich. He ones again exploits his magic healing gift in a wrong way, namely to win money and, what more importantly for Lipsha, the van, which is the main prize of the casino. To his satisfaction, Lipsha wins the van, and he goes to impress Shawnee Ray by his success and new van. She is at home with a sick son. However, Lipsha at that moment did not care about Serena or her sick baby, all he cares about was to have a triumphant ride. This triumphant ride gave Lipsha an ephemeral and spurious sense of fulfillment and greatness that had not lasted longer than one night. He was so full by self-pity and thoughts about himself that he did not notice how he became a slave of materialism. The next morning, when Lipsha finds his van entirely wrecked, he learns that he lost not only van, but beloved woman, and his healing power. In other words, the life gave him one more lesson to understand what is noteworthy, and recognize his mistakes and delusions, as well as change his mental and ethical point of view and life perspectives.
The well-known proverb says: “Be careful what you wish for ….” Lipsha was not careful or wise; he mixed up the veritable, eternal feelings, values and moral rectitude with artificial, temporary and material aspects of life. People came to the Earth to respect their roots, honor their ancestors’ traditions, and create something beautiful and useful for next generation; it is what the American Indians believe in. Lipsha is highly gifted so he has even more obligations against his tribe and his country, which he needs to understand. Therefore, the painful lessons that he gets in his life destined to form and cultivate his character, as well as show him the right direction to fulfill his life predestination.