Natural Symbolism in The Round House Analysis Example

“Look deep into nature and then you’ll understand everything better” (don't know how to cite properly). This statement made by Albert Einstein may have the intention to encourage people to make discoveries about the natural world, however, it also encourages one to evaluate the biological aspects of the setting of a novel. Specifically, The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, has natural details which can be examined with scrutiny. The novel is about a Native American boy, Joe Coutts, who learns that his mother has been brutally attacked and he is in the pursuit of getting justice for her in the North Dakota setting. This plot involves many organic details that can be interpreted in many ways. Particularly, the natural aspects in the setting of The Round House may be deemed as details which only provide a backdrop for the plot, however I analyzed that these natural aspects are symbolized by Erdrich to provide a deeper meaning which is of great significance to the plot.

The weather of the novel is one of the distinct organic details in the setting which gives another layer to the plot of The Round House. The weather and the main storyline have a significant correlation because the weather fluctuates along with the events in the storyline. Since this fluctuation in weather is a consistent factor used by Erdrich it allows readers, such as myself, to understand the true purpose of the setting and how it affects the plot.The beginning of the novel starts in early summer. In the beginning of summer the heat is not very high, but starts to rise. For a student the summer symbolizes the end of one chapter in their life and the start of the next chapter. Joe probably probably feels the way since he is entering a new grade level as a 13 year old, but this summer specifically brings more tension along with the higher temperatures. This tension is visible in chapter 5 when Erdrich states, “My friends found me sitting outside the door of the roundhouse in full sun,” (Erdrich 62). This line comes directly after Joe discovers the location of his mother’s attack proving that Joe is probably very angry or tense about the situation and the fact that there is a full sun during this situation simply makes the situation more tense. The full sun’s surge of heat simply parallels and represents the new surge of worry and anger Joe feels. Joe may have is ending his pressures of being a good student in school, but is just starting the new pressure of finding justice for her mother in the heat of the summer.

On the other hand, Erdrich shows the winter side of seasons at the beginning of chapter seven to contrast with the pressures of the heat in the previous chapters. During our class discussions we discussed that chapter one through six were consistently about how Joe is finding clues about the attack, but in chapter seven Joes seems to be on another tangent. This is foreshadowed by the winter description in the beginning of chapter seven. This is because the story consistently mentioned the heat that Joe felt, but in chapter seven Erdrich decides to describe the winter that Mooshum experiences. Winter is not expected to appear in the middle of summer, but Erdrich does so with the use of this natural symbolism. This can also correlate to how Joe suddenly finds a doll full of money (also in chapter seven). Money is generally not stuffed in dolls or found in lakes, but it occurred the same winter does not come in between summer. This contrast of weather between winter and summer foreshadows the relatively random and off track events that happened in chapter seven.

There is also a symbol of rain which occurs alongside the symbolism of summer and heat. For example, in the opening of chapter whatever Joe restates a statement made by his father, “When the warm rain falls in Joe's, said my father, and the lilacs burst open. Then she will come downstairs.”(Erdrich 238). The rain at this point of the story represents the cleansing of the past and the growth of a new beginning after Geraldine recovers from the rape. This same rainfall predicted by Joe’s father appears on page I don’t know after Linden is killed by Joe. This simply implies that when rain was first mentioned by Joe’s father it may have been foreshadowing the fact that when The reservation is cleansed of Linden that is when Geraldine will come out and feel safe again. Also rain in Ojibwe culture is considered a holy event. states, “it was exceeded in importance by the Sun Dance, performed annually in mid-June in order to bring rain, good health, and good fortune.” (). This lines up with how instead of doing a Sun Dance to get rid of Linden and bring good fortune he chooses to kill Linden. At the end Joe’s “sun-killing” did bring the desired rain which allowed Geraldine to come out of her shell and bring goodness to their world.In other words, the weather in The Round House helps develop Erdrich’s tone about the storyline and create the foreshadowing of future events.

Although the animals displayed in the novel may be overlooked by some scholars, do create a more profound and spiritual context for the main events occurring throughout the novel. This argument is strengthened by the fact that animals are a crucial part of the Ojibwe culture and the fact that the animals in the novel always appear at a turning point in the novel. For instance, a very early turning point is when Joe finds evidence that the attack occurs in the round house and he and his friends soon have to interact with the ticks in the woods. Specifically, the text states,“You can shake some off, but you can’t really crawl them off. We were crawling through the tick hole after tick hole.” (Erdrich 64). The ticks in this line embody the fact that Joe keeps trying to solve the problem of finding who raped his mother and get rid of the situation but it seems to keep coming back to him. Even though he tries to shake the problem off, but he keeps coming back to it because he does not realize that there is more to the situation than he thought so. He may have thought the finding rapist would be easy but he did not realize that even after he finds the attacker, they would have to get punished properly. Which can be seen in future events when Joe simply wants the horrors of the rapist to go away and decides to kill the rapist. Also, in page 255 when Joe was about to kill the rapist, Linden Lark, Erdrich describes that the tick were almost gone. This means that Joe’s attachment to the problem is getting loosened as he starts to plan to kill Linden.

Also when pearl and the dogs act a little bit wonky. Page 101

Joe's dad talks about the spirit animals

Plants and greenery are naturally part of every setting, but in The Round House the symbolism and description of these plants create new insights for the main story line. The use of distinct plants correlates to different characters and different events in the novel. This correlation represents the growth of characters and future events in the novel. An example of a plant in the novel is the weeds which are known as a nuisance. They grow in odd places in which they are not meant to grow. In the opening of chapter Joe and his father are getting rid of these weeds or small trees that are “invading” the foundation of the family’s house. Which parallels to how Geraldine’s rape invades the Coutts family peace of mind and shakes every family member’s foundation. Also, the novel states, “As my father prodded away blindly at the places where he sense roots might have penetrated, he was surely making convenient holes in the mortar for next year’s seedlings.” (Erdrich 1). This symbolizes how Joe and Joe’s father were trying to get rid of the problems, but only creating room for more. This is important because Joe tries to search for clues to find the rapist and ends up tampering with the evidence of the rape, which creates more problems the same way his father was making new holes for new seedlings. Additionally, when Joe’s father finally gets Geraldine to talk about the rape she does not reveal where it happens which puts them in a new problem of finding out where the rape occurs, so the rapist can be punished properly. In brief terms, these tiny trees not only foreshadow upcoming events in the novel, but foreshadow how characters will act in reaction to these upcoming events, giving these plants a more abstract meaning than simply being weeds.

Flowers are plants which are unique and have different ways to grow, similar to how people are all unique and grow in a different way. “The pansy seedlings were the only ones that live to get planted outside.”(Erdrich 85)

Joe turns into a tree in front of the church.

Conclusively, organic details in a novel are usually understood as simple aspects of the setting, but in The Round House, by Louise Erdrich these organic details may explain and foreshadow the events occurring in the plot. These biological aspects can be seen through the animals, plants, and weather part of the setting. Not only do these aspects of the setting create a vivid visualization for readers, but also provide an understanding of the Ojibwe/Native American culture and a device which brings a deeper meaning to the events that occur in the novel. The Round House is a riveting novel that seems to get more riveting every time a new natural detail is noticed especially since looking into nature makes one understand everything better.


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