The Round House

The Round House Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Linda arrives at the house and Bazil lets her in. Joe, who has sorted out his feelings toward Linda, decides he resents her because Linden is alive thanks to her kidney donation. Joe takes Pearl out to play in order to avoid her, but he later finds out that Linda gave Bazil information on Linden that provoked Bazil take extra steps to keep Geraldine safe, like accompanying her to her office. When they need groceries later that week, Bazil and Joe go instead of Geraldine.
Joe’s harshness towards Linda reflects that Joe is still too immature to fully understand Linda’s ethical dilemma and the difficulties that influenced her decision to save Linden. At the same time, his attitude toward Linda changes quickly when he learns that Linda is trying to help keep Geraldine safe.
Themes
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Together, Bazil and Joe pick up the things on Geraldine’s grocery list. As they turn into the meat aisle, Bazil and Joe see Linden Lark looking in one of the cases. Bazil throws the carton of cream he is holding and attacks Linden, trying to choke him and knocking him down. As Linden struggles underneath Bazil, Linden appears to be smiling. Joe smashes a can on Linden’s forehead. Bazil lets go of Linden’s throat and Linden pushes him off and runs away.
As it turns out, Linda was right to suspect that Geraldine should not go to the grocery store alone. Although Bazil is interested in trying to get justice through the legal system, he instinctually attacks Linden on sight and Joe joins in, together violently punishing Linden for the violence he inflicted on Geraldine.
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Bazil then has a heart attack; he lies on the floor of the grocery aisle and struggles to breathe. Joe calls an ambulance and Joe rides with him to the hospital. Joe and Geraldine stay in Fargo while Bazil has surgery and recovers in the Fargo hospital. At night, Geraldine and Joe sleep in a hotel room. Geraldine sleeps in Bazil’s bathroom, and Joe wishes that he had something of Bazil’s to wear too, so Geraldine gives Joe a shirt she packed for Bazil. Joe talks about how, as an adult, Joe still has many of his father’s shirts.
When Bazil has a heart attack after attacking Linden, it leads Joe, who is narrating from far in the future, to think about how he asked to wear Bazil’s shirt, and how, as an adult, he still owns lots of Bazil’s clothes. This story seems to remind Joe of Bazil’s second heart attack, which kills him after the events of the book and still clearly pains Joe.
Themes
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The second-to-last day that they are in Fargo, Geraldine goes to get coffee and Bazil asks Joe about Linden’s whereabouts. Joe doesn’t know, but later that night, while Geraldine is out of the room, Cappy calls Joe and tells him that some of his family (Joe presumes Doe, Randall, and Whitey) “paid a visit” to Linden and “messed him up good.” Geraldine comes back, and then the phone rings again. Geraldine picks up and asks if something is wrong at the office. When she hangs up, she curls up on the bed and doesn’t respond when Joe says her name. Finally, Geraldine says that Bazil’s secretary, Opichi, called to say that Linden got beat up. Afterward, he drove to Whitey’s gas station and antagonized him about the fact that Sonja, his “rich” girlfriend, left him.
In order to finish Bazil’s attempted attack, a group of Joe and Bazil’s friends and relatives beat Linden up. However, rather than making Geraldine feel better and more safe, Geraldine seems even more upset than she was before. It is unclear whether Bazil and Joe told Geraldine that they had seen Linden at the store, so it is possible that Geraldine is just reacting to the news that Linden is in the area. Still, beating Linden up does nothing to make Geraldine feel safer.
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Geraldine is confused about why Linden would call Sonja “rich.” Joe, upset, puts a pillow over his head. They lie there a while, then go to a diner. As they eat, Geraldine has a thought that disturbs her, and she wonders to Joe whether Linden is a wiindigoo that is trying to eat all of them. Geraldine promises to stop him and then finishes all her food for the first time since the attack. After dinner they go back to the hotel and go to bed, but Joe lies awake, afraid that Linden will kill Geraldine if she tries to find him.
When Geraldine articulates her belief that Linden might be a wiindigoo, she seems to be hitting upon an idea that Joe has been circling for quite a while. When Geraldine vows to stop him, she feels better by imagining taking justice into her own hands. Joe, however, worries about Geraldine’s safety in yet another parent-child role reversal.
Themes
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Chippewa Tradition vs. Catholicism Theme Icon
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Joe wakes up early on the rainy day they leave Fargo. Geraldine, Bazil, and Joe drive home peacefully, with Joe dozing in the backseat. As Joe enjoys the ride, observing his parents’ comfortable intimacy, he has a thought that unnerves him (which turns out to be the idea that he has to kill Linden Lark). When they get back to their house, Joe thinks back on the fight in the grocery store and imagines himself killing Linden. Joe decides to visit Father Travis the next morning under the guise of wanting to join catechism class, but really hoping the priest will teach him to shoot, since Father Travis is well known for shooting gophers.
Joe observes Geraldine and Bazil’s loving gestures and thinks about the family that he wants so badly to preserve. This thought leads him to conceive of the idea of killing Linden. Joe, who cannot shoot, then decides to go to Father Travis to learn. That Father Travis was Joe’s first choice seems strange, since Whitey could also teach Joe, suggesting that Joe may subconsciously be craving spiritual guidance (or trying to distance his violent act from those he cares about).
Themes
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Joe describes how many people on the reservation have experience with Catholicism because of boarding school, and many, like Clemence, are actively devout. On Saturday, Joe sits with Bugger Pourier, an alcoholic and drifter, the only other person in the catechism class. Afterward, Joe asks Father Travis for personal instruction in order to be confirmed by the fall. Father Travis asks what the rush is, and Joe tells him he wants to be able to pray. Father Travis says he doesn’t need to be confirmed to pray. Joe then asks Father Travis what the sins that require vengeance are, and Father Travis lists a few, including sodomy, which Joe thinks includes rape. Joe thanks Father Travis and says goodbye.
Although Joe often mocks Catholicism, the preeminence of Catholicism on the reservation suggests that Joe must have absorbed certain teachings. This becomes clear in this moment, since, although Joe stated that he wanted to go to learn to shoot from Father Travis, Joe also asks questions about “sins that require vengeance,” implying that Joe does care about the morality of killing Linden within a Catholic framework.
Themes
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On Sunday Joe goes to mass with Angus. Joe is the only one who stays for catechism class afterward. Father Travis gives Joe a book called Dune and they review some catechism basics. Father Travis suggests that they do the class outside, so they go for a walk and Father Travis explains more Catholic ideology. Father Travis asks about the state of Joe’s soul and Joe suggests that they shoot gophers. Father Travis then starts to talk about evil, saying that there are different kinds of evil, material (like poverty) and moral (when human beings cause intentional pain). Father Travis tells Joe that God gave people free will, so he cannot intervene too often. What God can do, however, is make good out of evil. Joe panics internally and Father Travis continues expounding on moral evil. Joe suggests again that they shoot gophers, and Father Travis states that they won’t be doing that.
Again, although Joe often mocks the Catholic religion and people who follow it extremely devoutly, he reveals in this moment that Catholicism’s moral system and Father Travis’s Catholic authority both matter to him. When Father Travis talks about evil, he states that God tries to make good out of it, causing Joe to panic. It is unclear exactly why Joe is panicking (perhaps Joe worries that he will soon be the one committing an evil act that God will have to make up for), but Joe’s reaction suggests that Joe worries about how he will be judged according to Catholic theology.
Themes
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Later, Joe rides his bike to the Lafournais house, where he finds Cappy weight lifting. Cappy stops exercising and pulls out a joint and beer. The boys leave Cappy’s house and go up to a hill overlooking the golf course to smoke and drink. As they watch the golfers, Cappy asks Joe why he went to mass. Joe tries to tell Cappy that he needs spiritual help, but Cappy doesn’t buy it. Joe tells Cappy that he needed to practice shooting, but that Father Travis had not helped him. Cappy say that if he wants to learn to shoot he should have come to him, since Cappy has been hunting since childhood.
Again, although Cappy does not believe that Joe went to seek out spiritual advice from Father Travis, and although Joe says that he only went to Father Travis so he would not implicate anyone else, Joe seemed especially susceptible to Father Travis’s moral musing during their walk. This suggests that spiritual advice may in fact have been part of Joe’s reason for choosing Father Travis to teach him to shoot.
Themes
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Joe hints that he is not just planning on shooting gophers, and Cappy understands that Joe intends to kill Linden Lark. Joe explains that he would not want to implicate anyone else, but Cappy insists he wants to help. Cappy tells Joe that they could take Doe’s rifle out to practice, but Joe is afraid of implicating the Lafournais family. Cappy proposes that they stage a house robbery so that Joe can use the gun to kill Linden without anyone suspecting anything, but still Joe says no. Joe and Cappy then notice that they could be looking for Linden from their overlook, since Linden is a golfer.
When Joe reveals his intentions, Cappy, rather than being astonished or taken aback, is completely on board. Although Joe tries to keep Cappy out of his plans to kill Linden, Cappy insists on helping him. In comparison to how they acted at the beginning of the book, both Cappy and Joe have grown much more secretive and independent, taking more action without parental permission.
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Joe and Cappy ride back to Cappy’s house to practice shooting. The boys set up cans on a fence and shoot them off over and over again. Cappy hits the cans easily, but Joe misses every shot. Joe surmises that he is the worst shot on the reservation. Joe tries shooting the cans with both eyes closed and fares marginally better. Cappy suggests that they practice somewhere more remote, but the boys are out of ammo.
Against Joe’s better judgment, Cappy convinces Joe to practice shooting with him even though Joe does not want to implicate him. Although the boys are preparing for a murder, this moment is fairly humorous because of how profoundly bad Joe is at shooting the target.
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Eventually, Joe, who has a strict curfew, has to go home. He plans to use some of the money Sonja gave him to buy more ammo alone, but he needs a ride to the ammo store. Joe asks Geraldine to take him to the shoe store, and then Joe makes an excuse to go into the sporting goods store while she waits outside. Joe buys forty dollars worth of ammo and a spinner for bass fishing (to pretend it was his reason for going into the store). Joe feels guilty for his deceit but he tells himself that his lies are for the sake of justice.
Unlike earlier in the book, when Joe was completely incapable of deceiving anyone and divulged everything to Bazil, Joe lies to his mother easily, then quickly excuses himself for it. Through this moment, Erdrich highlights how much Joe has grown and changed over the course of the plot, becoming much more individualistic and private.
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Joe thinks how his mother, even though she is doing reasonably better, has changed since her attack. Geraldine is jumpy and she now treats Joe more like an adult than she did previously. Joe thinks that she acts like he no longer needs her, when, in fact, he does. In the car on the way home, Joe asks his mother why she did not lie about where the rape had happened so that they could prosecute Linden. Geraldine says she isn’t sure, but that she wishes she had lied and it’s too late now to change her story. Joe understands, but he secretly still wishes that she had lied so that they could put Linden in jail and Joe wouldn’t have to be the one lying about buying ammo.
Although Joe has been making more and more adult decisions on his own, Joe still feels his mother’s absence acutely and regrets that Geraldine does not feel responsible for Joe all the time like she used to. Geraldine’s absence frustrates Joe, especially since Joe feels very lost and afraid at this point in the story. Joe hopes to be able to stop lying one day, suggesting that, although he is finally good at it, lying harms Joe emotionally and reminds him of his own lost innocence.
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Joe tries not to face the entire reality of what he is about to do because he finds it overwhelming. He realizes that the next step is to talk to Linda and find out Linden’s golf schedule. Three days later, Joe goes to the post office where Linda works, and gives Linda a bag of bananas to make banana bread. Linda is touched. Joe leaves, biding his time so his politeness is not suspicious. The next day around five o’clock, Linda pulls into the driveway. Geraldine opens the door and accepts banana bread from Linda, then invites her into the living room. Linda gives another loaf to Joe and talks with Bazil about the weather. Geraldine goes into the kitchen to make tea, leaving Joe, Bazil, and Linda alone. Joe falls fast asleep and wakes up later, having missed dinner. He thinks intensely about the murder he is preparing to commit and lets out a sob, terrified, and then lies on the floor. After about a half hour he gets up and goes to bed, feeling stronger than he did before.
Although Joe has committed emotionally and financially to killing Linden and acting out wiindigoo justice, he is still so overwhelmed by the idea of killing someone that he cannot fullly face the reality of the crime he is about to commit and the moral questions that it entails, so he avoids thinking about it in its entirety. When Joe finally does confront it, he is so overwhelmed that he curls up on the floor for half an hour. As Erdrich portrays Joe confronting his decision to murder Linden, the reader can already see the terrifying effects that this choice is having on Joe’s mental health—which only worsen after Joe actually commits the murder.
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Joe orchestrates running into Linda during her lunch. He goes to the sandwich bar that Linda frequents daily, checking for Linda, and on the third day he sees Linda walk in. Joe follows her in and sits down. When Linda notices Joe, she invites him to sit with her. Linda orders two shrimp baskets. Joe asks if Linda always gets the shrimp (the most expensive item on the menu), so Linda explains that it is her birthday. Joe wishes Linda happy birthday, and then, trying to steer the conversation toward Linden, says that he thought that Linda was born in the winter.
In contrast to Joe’s earlier investigation attempts, which he generally botched by losing focus or becoming afraid of getting in trouble, this effort to get information from Linda goes smoothly, as a more mature, purposeful Joe concentrates on getting Linda to talk about Linden’s golf habits. Again, this change shows how much Joe has matured over the course of the novel.
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Linda explains that she decided to celebrate the day that Betty was given custody of her after she was taken away by social workers for the second time, rather than celebrate her date of birth. The shrimp arrives and Joe forgets that he had decided to hate Linda because, in fact, he really likes her. Unexpectedly, Linda tells Joe that she is sorry she saved Linden. She then says that Linden left her a voicemail saying that he was going to become rich. Joe immediately thinks of Sonja and worries that Linden is going after her, but calms down after realizing that Sonja can hold her own. Joe and Linda finally eat. Joe, unnerved by talk of Linden, tries to change the subject to the weather, but Linda doesn’t seem interested in talking about it.
As Linda talks about how she celebrates her second reunion with Betty rather than her birth date, Joe seems to allow himself to warm up to Linda as he realizes that, although Linda is biologically related to Linden and the Lark family, she is really not one of them, and is instead a Wishkob at heart. By tracing Joe’s shifting feelings towards Linda, Erdrich seems to be guiding the reader toward an understanding that, although Linda is biologically related to Linden, she is not responsible for his actions.
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Joe then asks Linda if Linden plays golf, and Linda looks at Joe and blinks. Joe, thinking fast, tells Linda that he wants to know so that Bazil can avoid Linden if he ever wants to go golfing. Linda tells Joe that Linden usually golfs around seven am, and proposes to talk to Bazil about it. Joe empathically says no and tells her he wanted to surprise Bazil with a father-son golf outing. Joe eats the rest of his food quickly, knowing he has the information he needs.
Again, whereas earlier in the novel Joe would have likely caved under the pressure of Linda’s questioning, a more mature Joe is able to lie more smoothly, inventing his desire to take Bazil on a golf outing. Joe’s changing investigatory abilities help mark his increasing self-sufficiency.
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Joe looks out the window and sees Bugger Pourier stealing his bicycle. He excuses himself from Linda’s company and catches up to Bugger, then walks beside him while Bugger rides. After a while, Joe asks for his bike back. Bugger tells him that he needs it to go investigate something he saw that he thought might have been a dream, but Joe convinces Bugger to stop by Grandma Ignatia’s house for food, where Bugger returns the bike. Joe then rides to Cappy’s house, where he boys had planned to practice shooting, but when he arrives Randall is at the house, wearing full powwow regalia to prepare for the annual summer powwow.
Although Joe’s interaction with Bugger Pourier seems fairly inconsequential at this point, it later becomes a somewhat important plot point in the novel. Bugger refers to wondering if he saw something in a dream, and dreams are religiously and culturally significant in Chippewa culture and throughout the book, as Mooshum tells stories as he dreams, Akii dreams the real locations of game animals, etc.
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Cappy suggests that they look for rocks for Randall’s sweat lodge, so Cappy and Joe go out into the woods with a plastic sled and collect large stones. As they work, Joe tells Cappy about his conversation with Linda about Linden’s golf habits. Cappy tells Joe that they have to start putting Joe’s plan to action, saying that Joe should take Doe’s rifle during the powwow that weekend. Joe feels horribly guilty at the idea of stealing from Doe, but he knows Cappy is right. Cappy tells him that the safest time would be on Saturday night, since both Doe and Randall will be busy at the powwow. He tells Joe to make a mess so it looks like a break in, hide the gun at the golf course overlook behind an oak tree, and then return to the powwow grounds to camp with Cappy’s family.
Cappy and Joe go search for rocks for Randall’s sweat lodge, presumably only in order to get some alone time to talk about Joe’s plans to kill Linden. As he is throughout the book, Cappy is extremely supportive of Joe and generous to him in this endeavor, even suggesting that Joe steal his father’s gun to kill Linden. As Cappy and Joe formulate their plan, it becomes clear that they will have to carry it out during the annual summer powwow, one of the very important religious and cultural events on the reservation.
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For the rest of the week, Joe feels sick from the shrimp he ate with Linda. While he is resting in bed, he tries to read Dune, the book that Father Travis gave him, but instead ends up flinging it across the room. A long time later, Joe says, he ended up reading the book repeatedly. The week passes and then it is powwow weekend. Joe goes with Randall and Cappy to the powwow grounds and helps set up in the family’s usual spot. They dig a fire pit and place lawn chairs and set out coolers of food and drinks. When the powwow starts, Doe, as the MC, welcomes the crowd, makes bad jokes, and reminds the dancers of the time of the Grand Entry contest.
As Joe describes reading the book Dune and not connecting with it whatsoever, but then later in life reading it multiple times, Erdrich draws attention to the fact that connecting to stories can be circumstantial. Dune, which tells the story of a man who finally succeeds in overthrowing one political regime only to discover that he has created an equally bad one, seems to speak to Joe more after he processes his ambivalent feelings about having killed Linden.
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People start to fill the bleachers to watch the dances. Cappy and Joe set up a tent for Randall to prep himself in, and Cappy teases Randall as he dresses and paints his face. Randall, Joe, and Cappy exit the tent and observe as a girl watches Randall stretch, smitten. Randall farts while stretching and the girl laughs. Cappy and Joe then go find Angus and Zack. The four boys walk to the food stands and buy frybread. Several girls from their school approach them to flirt with Cappy. Joe observes how effortlessly Cappy attracts the girls, asking them about their lives as they walk around. Inside the arena, the Grand Entry dancers line up to dance and Joe, realizing it is time, heads to the Lafournais house to steal Doe’s gun.
As usual, although Randall is an excellent dancer and well schooled in Chippewa medicine, he comes across as a rather appearance-driven figure who is rendered ridiculous when his façade breaks, as it does when he farts as he stretches while an admiring girl watches. Randall is similar to Father Travis in that both are important religious men who act in ways that are often undignified, and so reveal that the idea of religious authority or moral superiority is mostly a farce.
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When Joe arrives at the house, he waits until dark, then puts on gloves and walks to the front door with the crowbar that Cappy left out for him. Joe enters and walks to the gun cabinet, where he shatters the glass and takes out the gun. He then puts ammo in his backpack, scatters Doe’s toolbox, and adjusts the TV so it looks like he tried to steal it. Joe walks out and takes a path to the overlook, where he and Cappy had already dug a hole. Joe buries the gun and the ammo and then walks back to the powwow. When Joe gets back, Cappy is in the tent alone. Joe tells Cappy that everything went smoothly. As they lie there, Joe thinks about Doe arriving home to discover that the house was broken into, and he feels intensely guilty.
Joe successfully carries out his mission to steal Doe’s gun, following Cappy’s instructions exactly and without issue. However, as Joe thinks about his betrayal and deception of Doe, his best friend’s father and his good family friend, Joe feels extremely guilty. Although Joe has not yet killed Linden, the steps he must take even before actually committing the murder require him to deceive people he loves, inspiring profound feelings of guilt that hint at the personal consequences of carrying out wiindigoo justice.
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The next morning, Joe and Cappy wake up at the campground and eat breakfast that Cappy’s relatives Suzette and Josey make for them. Suzette and Josey feed Joe and Cappy all day and then go prepare for the Grand Entry. Suzette and Josey take their clothing seriously, emerging from their RV with braided hair and perfect clothes. They join the rest of the dancers, moving with grace. Doe makes jokes over the loudspeaker.
Although the annual summer powwow serves mainly as a backdrop to Joe’s expedition to steal Doe’s gun, Erdrich takes her time to thoroughly describe the scene. As she focuses on Suzette and Josey, she makes it clear how important this celebration is to them by emphasizing the care with which they dress themselves.
Themes
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Randall approaches Joe and Cappy as they watch the dancers and informs them that the house was broken and the rifle was stolen. Randall thinks it was strange that the dogs did not fend off the intruders, and Joe and Cappy pretend to agree. Joe feels extremely guilty. Randall tells them that he is going to sleep at home that night with his shotgun to fend off any more burglars. Then Randall walks off. Cappy compliments Joe’s work stealing the gun and tells him that Doe would understand why he did it. Joe tells Cappy firmly that he is carrying out the rest of the plan, emphasizing that he is about to commit murder, even though it’s for justice. Cappy implies that Joe is not a good enough shot to do it alone and insists that he should be there to steady Joe’s aim. Joe agrees, but secretly intends not to tell Cappy when he will carry out the plan.
After Randall approaches Joe and Cappy to tell them about the break-in, Joe once again feels extremely guilty, foreshadowing the even more intense guilt that he will feel after he has actually committed murder. Joe, not wanting Cappy to be liable for arrest or to harbor the guilt that Joe does, tells Cappy that he wants to do the rest of the plan alone. When Joe emphasizes that even though the murder is just, it is still murder, he seems to be hitting on the fact that even if a punishment is morally justifiable, it can negatively affect the person giving out the punishment.
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The next week, Joe wakes up at sunrise and tells his parents he is going for a run. Joe takes an empty pickle jar full of water and the stone that Cappy gave him to the overlook and digs up the ammo and the rifle. Joe loads the rifle and brings it to the oak tree, where he has a clear view of the golf course. Joe waits to see if Linden shows up for hours, but Linden never does, so Joe buries the rifle again and goes home. Joe, relieved of his burden for the day, is ecstatic. He talks with Geraldine and then goes upstairs and takes a nap. When he wakes he feels dread, knowing that he will have to try to kill Linden the next day, but when he remembers seeing his mother after her attack he has a renewed sense of purpose. Joe goes back to the overlook the next two days, but Linden doesn’t show.
Although up until this moment Joe and Cappy have been planning Linden’s murder, it does not really come together until now, when Joe is completely positioned and ready to kill Linden in order to enact wiindigoo justice. Although Joe is prepared for his role, he is also hugely relieved when Linden does not show up, suggesting that Joe is afraid of what will actually happen once he kills Linden, and is perhaps nervous about the emotional effect it could have on him.
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On Thursday Joe goes to the overlook again, even though it is raining. After an hour, Linden shows up. Joe walks down the hill and finds a spot to stand where he can see Linden. Joe removes the rifle’s safety, holds the gun as he was taught, and takes aim. Linden taps his ball into the hole and Joe shoots as Linden walks toward the ball, hitting him in the stomach. Linden collapses and Joe lowers the rifle. Linden begins to scream. Joe reloads the rifle and shoots at Linden again, but misses entirely, then freezes. Linden starts to get up and Joe begins to panic when Cappy appears, takes the rifle from Joe, and shoots Linden dead. Cappy picks up the ejected casings and leads Joe up the hill away from Linden’s body.
Although Joe worries later that he has become as cold-blooded a killer as Linden, Joe obviously falters in the book’s climax, unable to deal the death shot to Linden. Despite the fact that Joe did not tell Cappy he was going to the golf course, Cappy appears and saves Joe, killing Linden in his stead. The fact that killing Linden was a group effort aligns his murder more closely with the principles of wiindigoo justice, which is meant to be carried out with community consent by a group, not by lone individuals seeking vengeance.
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