The Round House

The Round House Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One morning, Joe rides to Edward and Clemence’s house. When Joe arrives, he finds Mooshum outside, tangled in netting for the garden. Joe frees him and they go inside, where they find Clemence dressed for church. Clemence serves Mooshum tea as she and Mooshum bicker about Mooshum’s care and his interest in young women. Once Clemence leave for mass, Joe tells Mooshum about the ghost he saw outside his window, which also appeared to Randall in the sweat lodge. Mooshum tells Joe that it is not a ghost; it is someone “throwing their spirit at [him].” Joe asks if it could be Geraldine’s attacker, but Mooshum says no, since usually these spirits help people. Mooshum advises Joe to go to his doodem (the type of animal he is spiritually affiliated with), the crane, for luck. Mooshum finishes his tea and then falls asleep. Joe helps him to his daybed to rest.
Joe’s grandfather Mooshum, who practices Chippewa medicine and from whom Randall gained most of his knowledge, is very elderly, but is still a valuable source of medicinal knowledge on the reservation. Erdrich presents Mooshum, sometimes a ridiculous figure thanks to his whiskey- and women-loving tendencies, very seriously in this moment, as he tells Joe about what the spirit he saw means in Chippewa culture and advises him to consult his doodem. Although Erdrich does poke fun at the pomp surrounding religion, she also seems to take the earnest practice of it seriously.
Themes
Chippewa Tradition vs. Catholicism Theme Icon
When Clemence comes back from mass, Joe bikes to the lake to look for cranes. Joe spots a heron. Suddenly, the heron takes flight to the other side of the lake. At first, Joe is disappointed. Then, when he looks down into the water in front of him, he sees a plastic doll. Joe fishes the doll from the lake. He pulls the doll’s head off to dump out the water inside and finds that it is packed with money. Joe throws the doll in his pack and rides with it toward the gas station.
Again, although Erdrich pokes fun at religion, she obviously takes aspects of Chippewa religion very seriously. Her characters have real, unimpeachable religious experiences, as Joe seems to here, when the crane, Joe’s doodem, appears right before Joe finds the doll in the lake.
Themes
Chippewa Tradition vs. Catholicism Theme Icon
When Joe gets to the gas station, he walks in with the doll hidden under his shirt. Sonja is busy with a customer, but when the customer leaves, Joe shows her the doll with all the money in it in the private office. Sonja is shocked. Together they unravel the money as Joe explains that he found the doll in the lake. Sonja calls Bazil and tells him that she is taking Joe on errands. They say goodbye to Whitey, who is pumping gas, and drive to Sonja and Whitey’s house. Joe follows Sonja into her bedroom, where she sets up an ironing board and irons each hundred-dollar bill from the doll dry. Once they have put all the bills in envelopes, Sonja places the doll in a bag, and they put the envelopes of money into an aluminum box and bring it to the car. Sonja puts the doll in the trunk and tells Joe they are going to open a college savings account.
Joe immediately goes to Sonja when he finds the money, apparently feeling that he can trust her, since Sonja looks out for him throughout the book and treats him especially kindly. Sonja seems to have experience with the kinds of people she imagines would have hidden that much money, and she immediately realizes that they need to stash it to keep anyone from realizing that they are connected to it. Later, when Sonja tells Joe more about her history, it becomes clear why exactly Sonja has experience with the kind of dangerous men she imagines hid the money.
Themes
Women, Bigotry, and Sexual Violence Theme Icon
Sonja and Joe drive around the area together, opening several savings accounts in Joe’s name at different banks. Sonja throws the doll in a garbage can at a rest stop. Finally, when all the money is in different accounts, Sonja takes Joe to get fast food takeout, and as they eat, Joe ogles Sonja’s breasts. On their way home, Joe looks through the passbooks for the bank accounts, adding up the total to forty thousand dollars. Joe asks why they can’t keep any cash, and Sonja tells Joe that whoever lost that money could be someone dangerous, making Joe swear not to tell anyone. Sonja and Joe then drive to a tree called the hanging tree, where several Chippewa men were once lynched, and they bury the passbooks fifty steps into the woods.
Joe is obviously extremely sexually interested in Sonja and leers at Sonja’s breasts with gusto. Although Joe’s desire for Sonja goes unspoken or acted upon, he certainly objectifies his aunt in a way that, although fairly innocuous given his age, would be highly inappropriate if he were an adult. Meanwhile, the hanging tree that Joe references shows how physically omnipresent reminders of the history of the violent oppression of the Chippewa people are throughout the reservation.
Themes
Women, Bigotry, and Sexual Violence Theme Icon
Chippewa Tradition vs. Catholicism Theme Icon
Parenthood, Foster Families, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Land, the Judicial System, and Justice Theme Icon
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As they drive back home, Joe says that he wants to use the money to buy shoes like Cappy’s and he will tell everyone he got the money by working at the gas station. Sonja asks if he wants a real job at the gas station, and Joe, excited to get out of his house, says yes. Sonja tells him he must behave because he will be representing reservation business to the white people watching them, like the Larks. Joe warns Sonja to watch out for Linden, and Sonja tells him she likes using Linden to make Whitey jealous because Whitey thinks he owns her.
When Sonja tells Joe that he needs to act appropriately at the gas station, since white people will be watching him and he will be representing a Chippewa-owned business, Sonja alludes to the fact that, due to the pervasive racist stereotypes about Native people, Joe must work extra hard to represent himself totally irreproachably in order to keep from reinforcing prejudice.
Themes
Women, Bigotry, and Sexual Violence Theme Icon
When Joe gets home from putting away the money with Sonja, Bazil and Soren Bjerke, the FBI agent on Geraldine’s case, are drinking coffee at their kitchen table. Joe explains that the FBI has some jurisdiction over reservations because of a series of laws that were passed in the first half of the 20th century limiting Native autonomy. Before Joe arrived, Geraldine had refused to speak with Soren. Joe walks past Soren into the living room, but he does not want to walk past Geraldine’s room, so he goes back into the kitchen.
As Joe describes Bjerke, he notes that the FBI only has jurisdiction over the reservation due to laws limiting native autonomy, again linking legislative measures and case law that are far in the past to the present. The fact that Joe immediately links Bjerke with those laws suggests how Bjerke’s very presence symbolizes a legacy of Native oppression.
Themes
Land, the Judicial System, and Justice Theme Icon
Joe gets a glass of milk and a slice of cake. Feeling guilty about the doll, he decides to tell Bjerke about the gas can to alleviate some of his discomfort. Joe records and signs an affidavit about finding the can, then Bjerke makes small talk with him about school and his summer. Joe, still feeling guilty about the money, tells them about how Geraldine received a phone call and went to retrieve a file on the afternoon of her rape. Bazil pushes Joe for more information, but Joe, not wanting to talk about the money in order to protect Sonja, only tells them about finding a cooler full of beer, which he and his friends drank, and a pile of clothes on the day they found the gas can. Joe is horrified by how quickly he ratted out Cappy, Zack, and Angus in order to protect the money and Sonja. Feeling ill, he runs to the bathroom.
Although Joe is willfully defying his parents, he feels so guilty about his deception that he divulges some of the less incriminating things that he has done. Unlike earlier, when Joe told his father about finding the gas can immediately when pressed, Joe is a little more reticent this time. The reader sees Joe learning not only to act on his own, but also to keep certain incriminating information private from his parents. Later, when Joe finally actually kills Linden, he is able to keep quiet about it despite his profound guilt, perhaps thanks to smaller incidents like this one.
Themes
Storytelling, Formality, and Writing Theme Icon
Parenthood, Foster Families, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
When Joe gets back from the bathroom, Bazil and Soren give Joe a citation for underage drinking, and they propose to cite Joe’s friends as well. Joe lies and says he drank both six packs himself. Soren then tells Joe that the cooler and clothes did not belong to the attacker, but to a local vagrant named Bugger Pourier. Joe apologizes as he backs up, then climbs the stairs. In his room, Joe thinks about how, as Geraldine painted his room when she was pregnant, cranes kept flying by the window. Joe thinks about the money, and then about Sonja’s breasts, and then about his family. Joe watches a crane fly past his window, bathed in evening light.
Joe discovers that his anxiety about having tampered with police evidence was unnecessary, since the beer they found did not belong to the killer. Later, when Joe is in his room, a crane (which is his lucky doodem, and supposed to help him in times of need ) flies past his window. As Joe thinks of his various stressors, the crane seems to instill a sense of calm in him, reflected in Joe’s beautiful descriptions of the light in the room.
Themes
Chippewa Tradition vs. Catholicism Theme Icon