Son of the Morning Star

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Son of the Morning Star Analysis
Evan S. Connell has a unique writing style. While most stories are told from beginning to end, Son of the Morning Star: Custer and The Little Bighorn (North Point Press, 1984) begins with the aftermath of The Battle of the Little Bighorn. It is then followed by numerous events which led up to this battle. Connell chose this non-linear writing style in order to distribute the details he finds most fascinating and interesting to share with his audience. Using the conclusion of the battle as the introduction of the narrative creates a suspenseful tone. In the beginning of the story, the setting is the battle field which The Battle of the Little Bighorn had taken place a few days earlier. Lieutenant James Bradley has led his troops to the land where they discover the corpses of which they believe are General George Armstrong Custer’s troops. Custer himself was nowhere in sight. Even after a reward was offered upon his retrieval he could not be found. The deserted battle field raised questions and the men began to imagine what had happened days prior to their arrival. The author writes, “While discussing the day’s events around a campfire most infantrymen predicted more unpleasant news…” (pg. 3) The troops discovered a woman who was present during the battle and described to them what she had witnessed. The woman’s recollection of her experience opens up the story to a chronicle of the events which happened during the battle. The reader is given details regarding to Custer’s entrance and also each opponent’s fighting style: “Instead, Reno’s men dismounted and formed a skirmish line. Then they began to retreat. They ran very fast, she said, dropping guns and cartridges. She was disgusted by the conduct of these whites, saying they must have been seized with panic worse than that which seized her own people.” (pg. 7) As the plot approaches its conclusion, the reader is taken back to the aftermath of the battle and receives a tale told by a Cheyenne woman named Kate Bighead. She delivered a short story about the corpses she saw laying on the battlefield, one in particular she identified as General Custer: She said two Southern Cheyenne women were at the Little Bighorn and when the fighting ended they went to the battlefield. They saw Custer. They knew him well…they recognized him even though his hair was short and face was dirty. (pg. 422) Although the plot of this story does not have a chronological structure, it develops a more personal connection because the characters in the story are directly speaking to the audience as they give their personal accounts on the battle. For example, it had already been said that Reno was dead; however, an outburst made by Reno himself is mentioned shortly after. “The major was swigging at a flask when DeRudio splashed by. ‘What are you trying to do?’ Reno asked. ‘Drown me before I am killed?’” (pg. 50) Evan S. Connell’s work, Son of the Morning Star is an extraordinary and captivating narrative. He has an acquiring mind and was not afraid to step away from the traditional form of writing. Behind the chaos there is meaning. The writing style presented in this story is untraditional which could possibly lose the attention of the reader; however, this was a valid decision. ∆

Based on its cover the reader might think that the entire story is about General Custer and his troops. Despite expectations, the audience actually catches a glimpse of both the lives of Custer as well as his opponents. The author gives the reader a little information on the background of Crazy Horse, formerly known as Curly. “Curly did not reveal this manifestation to anybody until he was sixteen and ready to become a warrior…Except for moccasins and breechcloth he rode naked.” (pg. 67) The author also gives the reader the opportunity to read a few journal entries about Crazy Horse. These entries come from the diary of Jesse Lee,...
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