The Act of Listening: Benevolent Sexism & The Survivor’s Voice in Louise Erdrich’s The Round House Restricted; Files Only

Cole, Catherine (Spring 2022)

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Through The Round House by Louise Erdrich and the writings of Indigenous scholars, this thesis focuses on the aftermath of sexual assault and the importance of centering the voices of Native survivors in interpersonal relationships. Rather than advocating for one response to sexual violence as a comprehensive solution, I argue that the positionality of survivors means communities should always center their voices to decide which approach is best. I assert that an outside enactment of justice cannot adequately replace or represent a survivor’s experience and needs.

Using The Round House, I examine the three main characters – Bazil, Joe, and Geraldine – to explore varying responses to sexual assault in interpersonal relationships. The negative models of Bazil and Joe demonstrate that even well-intentioned Indigenous men, who are also suffering from the traumatic aftermath of sexual violence, can perpetuate harm against the survivor by only amplifying their own voices. Bazil and Joe use the United States legal system and Indigenous precedent, respectively, to determine applicable solutions. While each framework may have inherent value, the two approaches cause only damage because they ignore Geraldine’s objections.

Instead, the two men should have attended to Geraldine’s demonstrated needs. Geraldine’s well-being fluctuates in relation to the level of familial support. Bazil and Joe abandon Geraldine in her self-imposed isolation to enact their respective plans, and so her physical, mental, emotional stability plummets. Bazil and Joe’s need for personal gratification upsets their familial dynamics and worsens Geraldine’s trauma. Ultimately, Geraldine highlights that personal gratification must come second to communal support and intentional listening in the wake of sexual assault. 

Table of Contents

Introduction: Is “Good” Good Enough? 1

Bazil: An Eye for An Eye, But Who Gets Hurt? 13

Joe: “Boys Will Be Boys” 27

Geraldine: The Powerlessness in Pyrrhic Victories 43

Conclusion: Looking Forward & Remembering the Past 53

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