Montana 1948 Themes

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Montana 1948 is a 1993 novel by Larry Watson. The novel focuses on the life of young Montanan David Hayden, his family and the fictional town of Bentrock, Montana. The book was awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. The book focuses on family cohesion and also getting away from your family name. In 1995, Larry Watson wrote the novel Justice. This novel is based on the characters Frank, Wes and Julian. The novel is based in the year 1899, 49 years before the events of Montana 1948.

The story follows the Hayden family and their struggle with loyalty and justice. Family members include: the narrator - 12 year old David, his father and town sheriff Wes, David's mother Gail, his uncle Frank, grandfather and predecessor as sheriff Julian and the housekeeper Marie Little Soldier. When David's family's Native American housekeeper Marie falls ill, Frank Hayden, the local doctor is called. When Marie refuses medical treatment, David's parents, Gail and Wes, discover that Frank has been preying on the local native American women, raping and molesting them. Wes confronts Frank at a dinner at their father's house. Wes and Gail reach a compromise. When Marie is found dead, Frank convinces the family it is a result of the illness, however David proves (with many reservations) that Frank had murdered her, in order to silence her. The family faces much turmoil as Wes attempts to remain loyal to justice and family, but his inability to make a choice leaves him to imprison his brother in the basement. At this stage, Julian intervenes, showing his clear favour for Frank over Wes. He sends men to break Frank out of his jail, however Gail fights to stop them, leaving her deeply traumatized by the experience. That night, the family hear the sound breaking glass in the basement, but pass it off as caused by the anger of Frank. Next morning, Wes finds Frank dead in the basement, having committed suicide. The family choose to cover up the suicide, in an attempt to save Frank's...
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