Comparative Textual Analysis on The Round House and The Great White Father
The Round House by Louise Erdrich and The “Great” White Father image by Thomas Nast both create a similar motif of racism. In The Round House, Joe, the narrator, is a thirteen-year-old Native boy who is living on a reservation who experiences the trauma of his mother’s rape. Towards the end of the book, his mother reminisces about her rape and for the first time goes into detail about what happened to her. From the characterization of Linden Lark, her attacker, and the details about the setting and how it plays into the jurisdiction, Erdrich displays the motif of racism. The image The “Great” White Father is an image that depicts Andrew Jackson sitting on a chair in an office with small-sized Native people at his feet and on his lap. They look at a loss and are devastated for what he has done to them. Andrew Jackson tried to eliminate these people and forced them onto reservations through a journey that killed many of their people. The Round House conveys the message that racism can have long-term effects on one's life through the use of characterization and setting. The “Great” White Father image conveys a similar message of racism and how one person can control someone else’s life completely through the use of imagery.
Erdrich displays symbolism throughout the book in order to convey the idea of racism. Erdrich uses the characterization of certain people to display how their ethnicity and the way they were brought up has shaped them as a person and how it has affected them throughout their life. As Joe’s mother talks about her rape and how it happened, she begins to talk about the specific actions of Linden Lark and explains how he committed the crime. She begins to say “I remember everything.. I don’t know” (159-160). The characterization of Linden Lark and the description of his harmful and gruesome actions can help to represent how racism occured to many women on the reservation. Linden Lark was a white man who was going after a young Native girl with a child and an older Native women. This concept can represent the characterization of Linden and how racist he was. These Native women could not carry out their daily activities without being threatened and put into danger. This is an issue that is prominent from the very beginning of the book and continues to progress and become worse throughout the entire book. This racism goes onto affect the way Joe’s mother’s case is treated and how or if she will be able to gain any justice from her rape case. Erdrich continues to display racism even through the setting. The place where criminal cases occurred on reservations was crucial to the way that the case would be treated. There were many laws put into place and many federal jurisdictions that prevented certain cases from being treated as fairly as others. As a lawyer, Joe’s father realizes this and tries to fully understand where Geraldine, Joe’s mother, was raped exactly. As Geraldine starts to remember what happened that day Joe’s father questions her saying “the three classes of land meet there, my father said. His voice pulled tight with fear. Tribal trust, state, and fee. That’s why I’m asking” (160). The fact that it mattered so much where the case happened and how that changed the way the case was treated displays how much racism played into not just indigenous people’s everyday lives, but their lives when a crime was committed. So many women during this time, and to this day, experienced gender-based violence, but many women never got the justice they deserved. Their attacker could just be let off back into the world leaving these women constantly afraid of something happening to them again. This truly shows how not only did racism put these people in danger, but it also forced them to live their life in fear. All of these details from the text convey the broader theme of racism affecting the way Native Americans lived, the inequality of how they were treated, and how it made many of them live their lives in fear.
Nast uses visual imagery in order to convey the racism that Native Americans experience and the long-term effects it can have on their lives. The first major things to stand out in this image are the distortion throughout the image and the dark coloration using black and white and how that can represent something larger about what was occurring during this time. In the image, Andrew Jackson is enlarged and the Native American people around him appear to be small-scale. He is portrayed as a giant father-like figure through this enlargement and through the title of the image as The “Great” White Father (Nast). This imagery can convey the larger idea of how these people were looked at as smaller in society. The way that the author depicts them can also show how much power these people had compared to the power that Andrew Jackson held. Andrew Jackson had so much control of these people’s lives throughout history and it could have been said that he abused this power. Through acts of racism, he tried to rid the country of all Native Americans, but when that was unsuccessful, he pushed them onto reservations along the path called the Trail of Tears killing many innocent indigenous people. Nast continues to use this imagery through certain features like color of Jackson and the Native Americans. For example, Nast displays this image in black and white as opposed to the image in color. Putting this image in a darker color can display how these people live their lives in sadness. Often darker colors represent sadness which could be what these indigenous people are experiencing during this time. This constant recurrence of racism took away these people’s culture and the coloring in this image helps to create this sad mood. In the end, the author communicated the idea that racism changed and continues to change these people’s way of life. Many of them continue to live in fear and others have had their culture stripped away from them because of the past.
These two texts create a vivid idea of how racism throughout the years has changed and shaped the lifestyle of indigenous people. So many of them have experienced violence and never got justice forcing them to live their lives in fear. Others are still affected by their past and the way people like Andrew Jackson changed their lives by trying to eliminate them and their culture completely. At the same time, Erdrich focuses more on the overall gender-based violence and racism while Nast focuses more on the overall idea of how the racism of the past has carried over into today and continues to affect the way these people live. Overall, both the texts display a vivid motif of racism through the characterization, setting, and imagery and convey the general idea of how racism has changed these people’s lives throughout time and how power can often be abused to control and change one’s life.