In the novel, Montana 1948, written by Larry Watson, a story of a young boy named David and the events of a cataclysmic summer holidays are recounted. Set in the heart of North America in the 19th century, when Native Americans were considered B class citizens and persecution was inevitable ever since the Europeans first arrived on the continent. David matures in a short span throughout the text from naivety to maturity as a result of the series of horrendous events he experiences.
The murder and sexual assault of Marie Little Soldier evokes a case in which Wes, David’s father and sheriff of the county must re-moralise his choices as his brother Frank is to blame. The obligation to justice is a reoccurring theme throughout the novel in addition to abuse of power, loyalty, and, morality. The Hayden family encompassing David’s grandfather Julian, Julian’s son Frank, and Wes, all carry extreme power in the community of Bentrock; with this power they have freewill almost. Watson uses the characters, themes and events as dolls to portray to the audience his authorial intent.
A significant theme in Montana 1948 is morality which is linked in with loyalty also. Wes, David’s father has important choices to make between loyalty to his brother, loyalty to his wife, loyalty to an employee of the family and loyalty to the justice system. ‘Are you telling me this because I’m Frank’s brother? Because I’m your husband? Because I’m Marie’s employer… Or because I’m the sheriff? ’ These four sides Wes looks upon to take are the moral dilemma. If he stays loyal to his brother, his family, he is doing the morally correct thing.
Essay 6 - "This is life..." Reading "Angela's Ashes" was very emotional. One would not believe how people lived in Ireland some years ago. And I'm sure that wasn't the only place in the world where people were struggling like that. Frank Mc Court, the oldest child who tried to take care of his brothers the best way he knew, tells the story. He didn't have an easy life. This poor child tried to do ...
However if he puts his brother in jail for committing the awful crimes he did that is also the moral thing to do. Throughout this novel Wes seriously changes his attitude towards the crime and his brother, from once stating that he will not do anything to ‘arrange’ Frank’s punishment ‘in this life’ to ‘I had to arrest him’ he ‘has run afoul of the law’ in quite a larger time frame proves to the audience that Watson believes making moral decisions is not something that is quick and easy, these importance choices take time and morality is not a game. Wes realises that Frank’s crimes outweigh the reasons to stay loyal to his brother.
The seriousness of Wes’s tone when he decides to arrest his brother proves to the readers what Watson is saying, moral choices are not something to be played with. Furthermore, that there are a lot of attributing factors to someone making the ‘right’ decision and what is right in the mind of one may also be wrong or immoral in the mind of another. Directly linked to this is the theme justice. Justice to the powerful system that Wes works in, the law. As sheriff of Bentrock County, Wes has a responsibility to punish those who commit unlawful crimes.
Julian, Wes’s father treats Frank’s crimes as a joke and David notices this ‘Now he’s got himself a good looking white woman for a wife… that better keep him off the reservation’. Julian treats Frank’s occurrences lightly and this disgusts not only David but the rest of the family. Justice would tell Wes that Frank’s actions deserved punishment in return, without Justice Frank would not stop ‘That’s not the way it works. You know that sins – crimes, are not supposed to go unpunished. ’ Around this time however, America was quite an unjust place to live in.
The Sioux were treated as a lower class to the white Americans and their opinion was not respected. Therefore the decision Wes was to make as to punish his brother for sexual assault were not purely based on the crime itself; it was also based on the social opinion of those around him. ‘…after what I observed as a child in Bentrock. I could never believe in the rule of law again’ David says this as Bentrock to him symbolises injustice. The events that fell in the summer of 1948 sum up that law to David is a failure and has no power when in the hands of law-handlers themselves.
Generally speaking, the concept of the legal system can often seem very complex, confusing, and intimidating. However, to assist in comprehending the system, the state of Kansas has defined a sequence of events in processing criminal cases where each action encompasses a specific function. Whether it is the police officer who investigates the crime, the prosecutor who must gather the facts for ...
In the end it’s up to the power holder, not the law. This is what Watson is trying to say. Prevailing throughout the novel is also the theme of abuse of power under the Hayden name. The Hayden family in this story are a symbolism for the law. Watson uses them to show the readership how the law and justice are constantly abused and loop holes are found as ways out to punishments that should be deserved. Such as when Wes arrests Frank he puts him in the basement instead of jail. ‘They can’t arrest us, we are the law’ Wes is quoting Julian to Gail.
This shows that the Hayden’s do not respect the law as they use it how they please to get things they want. They are able to do this because of their position in the system and the community, Wes is the sheriff of Bentrock as this has been passed on from his father. Julian’s position of power as David’s first impression implies ‘he wanted, he needed, power’. Watson’s authorial intent is that if you are of high social class then you are almost free to do whatever you like, the law is in your hands because people will believe anything you say.
Unlike someone such as Marie, being Native American lowers people’s ability to believe what she says. Montana 1948, written just after the World War II period around a time of racial inequality for the Native Americans encompasses numerous themes such as morality, justice and abuse of power. Watson’s authorial intent is made clear throughout the novel by using these themes as well as a range of symbols. Such as the Hayden family themselves, symbolising the law.