The Round House


Louise Erdrich

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The Uprooted Trees Symbol Analysis

The Uprooted Trees Symbol Icon

In the book’s opening, during the afternoon of Geraldine’s rape, Joe and Bazil uproot seedlings that had begun to grow into their house’s foundation, causing the concrete to crumble. As Joe completes the task, he does it with unusual focus and attention, but he also feels guilty about uprooting the trees and he shows his compassion by moving them off of the sidewalk and onto the grass. Clearly, although Joe understands that the saplings must be uprooted in order to protect his childhood home, he also feels a sense of regret about the destruction that it necessitates. Later, Joe thinks back on the saplings several times with a mixture of longing and regret. As the last memory that Joe has of the time before his mother’s rape, the saplings seem to represent for Joe a time of blissful innocence. The saplings, therefore, symbolize Joe’s departure from childhood over the course of the book and the mature choices he has to make—choices which upset Joe, but which are necessary to protect his family. The violent act of uprooting the saplings for the sake of maintaining his family home’s stability symbolically represents Joe’s decision to kill Linden in order to restore his family’s tranquility— an act which, in turn, kills Joe’s own innocence.

The Uprooted Trees Quotes in The Round House

The The Round House quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Uprooted Trees. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women, Bigotry, and Sexual Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of The Round House published in 2013.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation… As my father prodded away blindly at the places where he sensed roots might have penetrated, he was surely making convenient holes in the mortar for next year's seedlings… it seemed increasingly important to me that each one of these invaders be removed down to the very tip of the root, where all the vital growth was concentrated. And it seemed important as well that I do a meticulous job… It was almost impossible not to break off the plant before its roots could be drawn intact from their stubborn hiding place.

Related Characters: Joe Coutts (speaker), Bazil
Related Symbols: The Uprooted Trees
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

We came to the tree that people call the hanging tree, a huge oak. The sun was in its branches. There were prayer flags, strips of cloth. Red, blue, green, white, the old time Anishinaabe colors of the directions, according to Randall. Some cloths were faded, some new. This was the tree where those ancestors were hanged. None of the killers ever went on trial. I could see the land of their descendants, already full of row crops.

Related Characters: Joe Coutts (speaker), Randall Lafournais, Sonja
Related Symbols: The Uprooted Trees
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Uprooted Trees Symbol Timeline in The Round House

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Uprooted Trees appears in The Round House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One: 1988
Women, Bigotry, and Sexual Violence Theme Icon
Land, the Judicial System, and Justice Theme Icon
The Round House opens as the narrator, Joe, describes himself and his father Bazil weeding saplings that have grown into the foundation of his parents’ house. As Bazil removes some of... (full context)
Storytelling, Formality, and Writing Theme Icon
Parenthood, Foster Families, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Land, the Judicial System, and Justice Theme Icon
When Joe finally quits weeding the trees, he goes into Bazil’s study to peruse Bazil’s copy of Handbook of Federal Indian Law.... (full context)
Chapter Eleven: The Child
Parenthood, Foster Families, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Land, the Judicial System, and Justice Theme Icon
...Linden he might become a wiindigoo himself. Joe thinks back to when he was pulling trees out of the yard a few months before, and remembers how happy and ignorant he... (full context)