One of the most important things in life is a family and the love and support that are shown. As a result from a loving family, a strong bond is born and it is very hard to kill. But within life, every person must obey and follow rules in a community, too. Protecting a relationship and a reputation of a family member is expected within the family, but there is a fine line when one can no longer do that based upon rules to protect the community. But how does one know when to draw the line when making the decision between his or her own family and protecting people within the community? No matter what decision is made, the opposing decision will always suffer. This is the basic theme of Larry Watson's novel Montana 1948.
First of all, David Hayden is a twelve year old boy that lives in Mercer County in Bentrock, Montana. He lives with his mother, Gail, and his father, Wesley. His father is a well liked and highly respected sheriff in the county who had been serving his second term as sheriff in the summer of 1948 in Montana. Bentrock was a small, peaceful town with a population less than 1,000 people, which, as a result, lead to a somewhat boring job as the country sheriff.
...my father's job was a relatively easy one.
Oh, he arrested the usual weekly drunks, mediated an occasional dispute about fence lines or stray cattle,...warned the town's teenagers about getting rowdy..., but...being sheriff of Mercer County did not require great strength or courage...One of my father's regular duties was chaperoning Saturday night dances in the country, but...he often took along my mother (and sometimes me) shows how quiet those affairs--and his job--usually were. (5) This shows how laid back and relaxed the town is and being the Mercer County sheriff wasn't exactly the most dangerous job.
Having the last name Hayden was an honor in Bentrock because the Hayden family was very well known and respected. Having the job as the county sheriff was an honor because it was handed down throughout the family as years past. David's grandfather had passed the position down to Wesley, rather than to his other son, Frank, who was David's uncle, because Frank was serving in the war. Wesley was not able to serve in the war because a horse had brutally kicked him in the legs and severely broke his leg. The break was so severe that it had left Wesley with a permanent limp for the rest of his life. Gail had desperately wanted Wesley to pursue his law degree that he had, but the thought of declining the job as the county sheriff had never even crossed his mind. Wesley is described as "a man who tried to turn two ways at once--toward my grandfather, who wanted his son to continue the Hayden rule of Mercer County, and toward my mother, who wanted her husband to be merely himself and not a Hayden. That was not possible as long as we lived in my grandfather's domain" (9).
While Wesley served his years as the sheriff, David's grandfather would constantly brag about how his son, Frank, was such a war hero. "Brothers naturally invite comparison, and when comparisons were made between those two, my father was bound to suffer" (24.) Wesley was described as "tall, broad-shouldered, and pleasant-looking" (24). But Frank, on the other hand, was not only a war hero, but he was also a doctor. Frank "was all this and more. He was handsome—dark, wavy hair, a jaw chiseled on such precise angles,...and he was tall and well built as my father but with an athletic grace my father lacked" (24). This shows the similarities and differences between the two brothers. Each sibling had qualities about him that the opposing sibling did not possess. Even though the brothers had major differences, they still both loved and cared for each other.
The Haydens had an Indian girl who lived with them, helped with daily chores, and helped watch over David when needed. One day, Marie had a terrible cough and fever and was very sick. Gail...
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