Reading Questions for The Round House. Use these questions to guide your reading and to gain a deeper understanding of the novel in order to analyze it in depth on your next exam.
- Examine the opening line of the novel. How do these words relate to the unfolding story?
- Joe is an adult retelling the story of one summer when he was 13 years old. What is the significance of his age? How does it impact his actions and reactions?
- The attack on Joe’s mother, Geraldine, rocks the whole family. How does it affect the individual relationships within the family (Joe/mother, Joe/father, mother/father)? Does it alter his view of his parents? How does trauma transform their family? How does it transform Joe?
- What is the significance of The Round House? What is the importance of the Obijwe legends that are scattered through the novel? How do they reflect and deepen the main story? What can we learn from the old ways of people like the Ojibwe? Is Joe proud of his heritage?
- After the attack, Joe’s mother, Geraldine, isn’t sure exactly where it happened, whether it was technically on Reservation land or not. How does the legal relationship between the U.S. and the Ojibwe complicate the investigation? Why can’t she lie to make it easier?
- Secondary characters, including Mooshum, Linda Wishkob, Sonja, Whitey, Clemence, and Father Travis, play indelible roles in the central story. Talk about their interactions with Joe and his friends and parents. What do their stories tell about the wider world of the reservation and about relations between whites and Native Americans?
- Towards the novel’s climax, Father Travis tells Joe, “in order to purify yourself, you have to understand yourself. Everything out in the world is also in you. Good, bad, evil, perfection, death, everything. So we study our souls.” Would you say this is a good characterization of humanity? How is each of these things visible in Joe’s personality?
- When Joe makes his fateful decision concerning his mother’s attacker, he says it is about justice, not vengeance. What do you think? How does that decision change him? Why doesn’t he share the information he has with the people who love him?