“I could never believe in the rule of law again.” Says David, reflecting on the events of 1948. Why does he come to this conclusion?
Larry Watson’s Montana 1948 is a story set at Bentrock, Montanan focuses on the family struggles of the Haydens between loyalty and justice. David Hayden, the adult narrator, looks back at the summer when he was twelve years old, and recalls all the life-changing events which completely lead to his disbelief of the rule of law. Young David once believed in the rule of law, and believed the adult is righteous to uphold justice, but on the contrary, what unveiled before him is how the Hayden family neglect the law and abuse power, is how his grandfather attempts to protect his criminal son, is how uncle Frank’s misdeeds is covered throughout.
David’s perspectives on the rule of law is initially influenced by the way the members of his family abuse their powers. In the position of sheriff in generation, the Hayden family is the one enforce the law all the time, even above the law. Knowing “when to look and when to look away” is the principle of grandfather Julian, as a former sheriff, who ‘was a dominating man who drew sustenance and strength from controlling others’. It is a sign of corruption as law is not taking seriously. As for Wesley, although he seems not “get a hang of it”, he actually lived happily and proudly under Julian’s power at the start. This is evident when David recounts his drunken father said to Gail “They couldn’t arrest us-we are the law. ”after Julian intimidate back the cowboys at a bar. With power in their hands, they are able to do whatever they want against the law without being punished. David was shocked when he discovered that both of his father and grandfather were in conspiracy of knowledge about Frank raping Indian girls, but just indulged it. Before reaching the central climax, David already finds out that people are not equal in front of the law, powerful people is always dominant.
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