“Montana 1948 Shows That Racism Can Have Tragic Results

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“Montana 1948 shows that racism can have tragic results.” Discuss. (on the novel Montana 1948)

Montana 1948 is set in an era where the prevailing attitude towards Indians is that they were inferior to whites and where therefore discriminated against, abused and isolated from the white community, on reservations. There are several examples of racist attitudes; however mainly through the characters of Frank and Julian Hayden we see that abuse of power leads to the exploitation of Indian women with tragic results not only for the Indians- the murder of Marie- but also for the Hayden family whose relationship is irreversibly shattered.

Subtle forms of racism are present from the beginning of the novel. David states that his father thought that Indians were “lazy, ignorant, superstitious and irresponsible." This belief causes Wesley to house Marie in “… a small room off the kitchen” despite the fact that another bedroom was empty and located on the “second floor” because he though Indians didn't deserve an actual bedroom. He also dismissed Marie's accusation of Frank through thinking "she's an Indian- why would she tell the truth." Though white people in the novel may have integrity, their upbringing has left the deep stain of racism ingrained in their personality to see Indians as second-class citizens.

On the other hand, Ollie Young Bear personifies the fact that racism exists in both cultures and not just the white culture. Wesley holds him up as a perfect "example of what Indians could be" and the fact that he plays on the Elk's baseball team, but “probably could not have been admitted to the Elks as a member" show the racism used by white people. Ollie's war-hero status, marrying a white woman and general acceptance by white people means that he is effectively ostracised from both communities. The Indian community won't accept him as they think "he won't be happy until he's white" and the white community will keep on seeing him as an Indian. Ollie Young...
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