The Saddest Character Wesley in Montana 1948
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In Montana 1948, Larry Watson mainly narrates a secret and catastrophic story happened in Hayden’s family which have high prestige in Bentrock Montana, 1948. In this novel, Watson stands on a twelve-year-old boy－David Hayden’s view to talk about family tragedy which results from his uncle Frank molesting many innocent Indian girls. Therefore, Hayden’s family is tormented by the moral dilemma; especially Wesley- the brother of Frank also the sheriff of Montana. By elaborating how this family scandal affects the characters’ emotional ups and downs and choices to push the story forward, Watson successfully shapes Wesley, one of main protagonists in Montana 1984, struggling in dilemmas between family reputation and the his own interests and justice.
Firstly, Watson aims to delineate Wesley’s backdrop, which he lives under his father’s control most of his life to show how he would rather suffer himself to achieve his father’s wish. At starter, Watson notes Wesley, because of his father’s ambitious personality，chooses the job sheriff as his occupation. From the beginning of this novel, as the narrator David noted, Wesley is graduated from a law school and is supposed to be a attorney in his and his mother Gail’s eyes, but finally, Wesley still follows his father’s preference of being a sheriff in Montana, and as David mentions, Wesley “never wore his badge” but puts it in the suit-coat or pocket. (p7) and “the badge’s heavy weight could have torn” his father’s cloth. (p7) However, in the end of the story, Wesley becomes a successful lawyer and “his name was listed as a partner with the firm” (p163) From these parts, primarily readers could know that Wesley is under his father’s control a long time and he is afraid of, also loves his father, so he accepts the job his father gives to him, but not pursue what he wants to be.
Besides, the badge’s weight mentioned in the novel is not only just from the weight itself, but indicates that Wesley takes this job as a heavy responsibility from his father; Moreover, that the badge weight can destroy his cloth means Wesley gives up his ideal occupation (his own interest) to be a sheriff (his father’s command), and also indicates that his father tears Wesley by controlling everything of him. From this description, it is obvious that Wesley surrenders and caters his father’s wish accepting everything his father requires him to do: like to be a sheriff, which even is a struggling occupation for him. The job “Sheriff” likes a burden for him but he still chooses it because the job is what his father designates to him, and until Frank dies, after he moves out of Montana, gets rid of his father’s control, to the extent, he dismantles his suffering a little from his father’s autocracy. Second, Watson depicts Wesley hesitates in ambiguous choices to implies his struggling emotion behind his choices. When he gets into a new dilemma between his brotherhood Frank and his own justice, Wesley’s suffering and pain strength.
For example, When his wife Gail tells him about Frank’s indecent deed to patient under the guise of treating, Wesley tires to defend his brother, like what he noted “ maybe she [Marie] doesn’t know what’s supposed to go on…(p34-35) But I knew it [some treatment seems like indent] was part of the exam,” (p35) and he even rather puts the blame on Marie, said “You know she [Marie] likes to make up stories.”(p35) At this particular part, readers can strongly feel that the words what he said to take sides his brother is not only to protect Frank, but also to convince himself that his brother will never do those dirty things like that. From Wesley’s point of view, he is not willing to believe the fact, however, meanwhile，he, at least, has a little bit belief to believe what Gail said is true because he can never deny rightly when Gail has a fight with Wesley about Frank after they all calm down a little, said “Wes, you never said you didn’t believe it. Why is that?”(p43) Facing the question from Gail, poor Wesley even does not know how to answer but just “simply picked up his fork and continued to eat” (p.43) It is obvious that how struggling his heart is when he fights with himself in his deep heart between trusting Frank and not trusting Frank.
No one can help him to get out of this dilemma, only he can, but what he needs to choose is hard and heart-wrenching, because at this moment, his struggling is not only from his father’s dictatorship, but also from invisible pressure from the society and his inner responsibility to the society as well. Also when Wesley calms down a little, he shouts at Gail said, “why are you telling me this? Are you telling me this because I’m Frank’s brother? Because I’m your husband? Because I’m Marie’s employer? Or because I’m the sheriff?”(35) All these he said strength to show his pain about this big issue. He do not know what he could to do, because one side he needs to face is his beloved brother, and the other side he needs to confront is his social justice or maybe reasonability of his job. From this word, it could make readers feel that at that moment, Wesley even do not want to have these roles in his life, what I mean is he is a father, a brother, a husband, a employer and also a sheriff, but what he need to bear at that moment is too much. He wants to get rid of these roles so maybe he does not need to tolerate all of those pains at all.
Later, after Wesley talking with Frank, he decides not do any thing to Frank but just let this thing go. However, when he thinks everything is over, Marie dies and he is told the death of Marie maybe relates with Frank. He comes back to the struggling again, and he needs to face choosing between his brother and his justice again. For example, after his son David tells what he sees in the afternoon earlier before Marie dies, Wesley questions David that “You’re pretty sure, David? Did he have his bag with him? Was he in the house? Can you be sure? Did you see him come out of the houses? So you didn’t actually see him come out of our house? Are you say this was around three o’clock?” (91) All of these consecutive questions show Wesley’s unwillingness of believing what his son said is true, and he wants to hear an answer which can prove Marie’s death does not relate to his brother; meanwhile, his desperate emotion even makes David feels Wesley’s voice includes “jealously and resentment”(p92) to him.
His heart be struck again just because he need to fight with himself between family and justice again. Before Marie dies, Wesley thinks if he could pretends nothing happened before, the thing can be solved，but Wesley never know it is just a “new chapter” of the story and the “new way” to suffer him. Then, when Wesley is going to tell Frank’s wife the truth of Frank after he put Frank in the basement of his house temporarily, Wesley still in hesitation that weather to tell the truth or not. His hesitation makes readers fell that Wesley still wants to flinch and thinks putting his brother in the basement is kind of cruel, but he has to do even if this is not what he wants happened. After his father who wants Wesley to let Frank out threatens house, Wesley ultimately decides putting his brother into jail. He believes that “people must pay for their crime.” so he chooses justice.
What he said seems more likely to console himself so that he can smooth his painful heart a little. From this struggling process of choosing family, Frank, or justice, readers clearly know Wesley chooses Frank at first, but after something happened- Marie’s death, his father’s threatening, he chooses justice. Also obviously, this process for Wesley is reluctant: He tries to protect his family as much as possible, but the reality dose not allows him to violate his own justice. As before mentioned, one side is his beloved brother, the other side is his responsibility to the society, but what is cruel to him is he cannot get a trade-off at the same time, so he is struck in a dilemma and is tortured by the pressure from two sides-family and justice.
Third, Watson portrays Wesley as a sad character all the time. Even in the end of the novel, after Wesley, David and Gail move out of Montana and Wesley gets rid of his father’s control and becomes a lawyer, what happened in Montana 1948 still tears Wesley until he dies. When David’s wife tries to ask some information about this thing, Wesley is so mad and says, “Don’t blame Montana, Don’t ever blame Montana!” (p169) Wesley’s action and what he said shows how painful he feel about the thing happened in Montana, 1948. The pain in Wesley’s heart still cannot be smoothed even after many years，like this event is a indestructible and unshakeable memory. In fact, Wesley lives with his guilty for his family, sadness for his beloved brother’s death, and any other ambiguous emotion in his later life after 1948.
In conclusion, in Montana 1948, Watson sets Wesley living with full of dilemmas and controversial situations. Wesley’s struggle which always needs him to choose between his family and his own interests like justice and preference is full of this novel, and his struggle makes readers clearly understand how the process of this story happened in Hayden’s family is going on and what cause a family tragedy in the end.
Larry, Watson. Montana 1948. Minnesota: Milkweed Editions, 2007. Print.