Montana 1948 – Racism

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The novel Montana 1948 by Larry Watson explores the theme of racism and how it motivates people to justify their actions. Characters such as Julian Frank and Wes are shown to be very racist, and the general community of Montana is also prejudiced against the indigenous people. The community’s racism is evident in their language, with terms like squaws, black gin, nigger, and redskin used to imply racial inferiority. Ignorance and misunderstanding are also shown to be functions of racism, with Julian Hayden providing a prime example. The Hayden sons represent two different degrees of racism, with the younger generation modifying their expressions of it due to education and wealth.

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Racism is an underlying force in the novel Montana 1948, by Larry Watson. It is an attitude that motivates people, by which they justify their actions. Certain people, such as Julian, Frank and Wes, are very racist. So is the general community of Montana.
In the community of Montana, racism is blatantly obvious. Daisy McAuley , as an example of the local women, refers to the Indian women as “squaws.” This is a kind of racist terminology, which includes terms such as “black gin”, “nigger”, “redskin”, implying racial inferiority.

Daisy knows that Frank Hayden has raped Indian women, but she doesn’t much care. Because the community is prejudiced against the Indians, people ignore what is going on between Frank and the women. The general feeling is that the Indians are ignorant , so how could they know what a doctor is supposed to do when examining them? Bentrock is “really in 1948 still a frontier town in many respects.” In other words, the European invaders have pushed the indigenous landowners into the reservations – people generally accept that this is the way things should be.
Racism is shown as a function of ignorance and misunderstanding, Julian Hayden providing a prime example. His two story “dude ranch” is a symbol of his opinions. He believes that he is more clever than the Indians just because he is white.

The Europeans have conquered the West because of their brute force and guns, not necessarily because of their knowledge or intelligence. This does not stop Julian’s racist way of thinking. He refers to the Sioux as “red meat” and denigrates them – ultimately, just objects to be used by his son, Frank. Details used by the author to highlight Julian’s boorish, crude nature include his references to bodily functions and his frequent use of foul language.
The Hayden sons represent two different degrees of racism as the powerful family ‘progresses’. The younger generation has the advantages of education and wealth, causing them to modify their expressions of.

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