STYLE Montana 1948
What IS style? • Style is the way that something is put together, the mechanics of the operation, the way that the writing comes together and how it ‘speaks’ to the audience. Style is things like: • Narrative…is it written in 1stor 3rd person? Who is telling the story and why? • Description/use of adjectives/use of figurative language • Genre – what TYPE of text is it? Who does it appeal to? • Use of language and dialogue • Sentence structure (why sentences are put together the way they are, e.g. are they short and simple or long and developed? • General structure…how is the text put together? Chapters? Sections? How is it constructed to create a beginning, a middle and an end? • Style aids in our understanding of themes, characters, plot and setting. It is through the style of the text that we really gain knowledge of all the key elements that make a text whole. • Write a paragraph on EACH of the above bullet points in relation to Montana 1948. Think carefully about how style is used to aid in our understanding of the ‘big issues’. Always ask yourself “WHY?” Why did Watson use the particular style he used when writing Montana 1948?
Style in Montana 1948 Rite of passage novel • Montana 1948 is written in the popular rite of passage genre. A young boy steps into the adult world by ‘overhearing’ what is turning his world upside down. The innocence of childhood is replaced by the complex world of adult morality and immorality. The child is drawn into the adult consciousness by trauma, disappointment and the blatant reality of a harsh world.
The mature David Hayden recalls the summer of his twelfth year and takes us from the innocence of his childhood through the experience of a childhood shattered. The events that occur in 1948 and the consequences for the Hayden family are revealed through a child growing to understand the adult world of moral dilemma and trauma. David’s simple and idyllic life growing up in a small town surrounded by people he loves and trusts is destroyed by his hero, Uncle Frank, and he must come to terms with his future and being a Hayden.
It is through this rite of passage genre and David’s narration that we learn about some big ideas like… • Power and who wields it • Loyalty and where it is best placed • Who the victims are in the real world Though the story is simple, the complexity of ideas and characters presented to the reader make it compelling reading.
So…the style of Montana 1948 is: • The style of the novel is simple. It is down-to-earth and relatively understated. We have an ordinary grown-up person recalling the events of a traumatic summer in his childhood. There is little dialogue, and the story is told easily without any whirlwind passages. The story is strong and memorable and has an impact on the reader. It is in this sense that it does not need to rely on fancy literary devices. There are memorable quotes and scenes, but it is a simple story told in flashback fashion.
What the style helps us to understand in the story: • The moral stand taken by Wes and Gail is contrasted by the misuse of power wielded by Frank and Julian. • People get hurt, and Watson makes this statement with all the power of a well-written and succinct narrative. The text covers very real issues, and is told in a very real manner, with little room left for exaggeration or embellishment. It is because the style is so simple and matter-of-fact that we are able to build a picture of what is going on. The straightforward narrative gently leads us to places we aren’t expecting to go to! • Even though the story is sad, it leaves readers with a positive feeling because people have made choices that reflect goodness and fairness. The ordinary values of human life underpin the story.
Structure • The novel is structured in a conventional manner. Watson tells the story of what happened to the Hayden family in 1948 by using ‘flashback’ device(*). The adult David Hayden describes the events of the summer of his twelfth year in Montana forty years earlier.
Prologue • The Prologue begins the story and sets readers in a position where scant detail is given about an event to make them curious about what actually happened(*). There is something sinister, something which traumatically affected a young boy which makes them want to read on(*). The plot is not given away, which entices readers into the text.
Section 1 • Introduces the characters and sets up the main story about the Hayden dynasty and the discrimination of Indian women by Frank(*). This section also develops young David’s initial steps from childhood towards adulthood as he uncovers a terrible secret(*).
Section 2 • Sets up the moral drama facing the Haydens and shows how Wes and his family deal with the circumstances(*). Wes investigates the actions of his brother, and this climaxes with David revealing that Frank murdered Marie(*). Wes must do something with this new information, and is forced to charge Frank for his crimes(*).
Section 3 • Plays out the moral drama with several climaxes ending in Frank’s suicide(*). The Hayden family becomes estranged, and David is openly brought into the situation(*). His reactions are still child-like(*), which enables the reader to concentrate more on the moral drama.
Epilogue • Returns the reader to the present tense, with the adult David revealing what happened after the tragedy of 1948(*). Watson also uses this section to sum up and create some powerful imagery(*).
So…all in all… • The structure of this novel is easy and comfortable for the reader. There is enough ‘teasing’ with details throughout to make it exciting. It compels the reader to continue by developing intrigue (why is Marie so afraid of Frank? What will Wes do with the information he has gathered? How will Julian react? What will Frank do?) and spacing the crises (Frank’s arrest, Grandma and Grandpa Hayden’s visit, Julian’s attempt to ‘break-out’ Frank, Frank’s suicide) allowing the story to unfold easily. There are some quite dramatic episodes which give the novel enough spice and energy to sustain readers. The novel is easy to read and quite satisfying.
Looking closely at the style of the text… • In order to analyse style closely, we need to analyse key sections of the text carefully. Cut the piece of coloured paper you have been given into sections to ‘bookmark’ key scenes in the text. • Knowing these key scenes well will enhance your analysis of the text and the style in which it was written. • When we come back to revise at the end of the year, I will give you back your copy of the text so you can easily access the key scenes of the text!
The important parts (but it’s all important of course!) • Description of Montana (15-16) • David’s father Wes (16-19) • Julian as sheriff (19) • Marie Little Soldier (25-26) • Marie’s refusal to see Frank (30-31) • Wes’ prejudice (34) • Frank the hero and Wes taking 2nd place (36-37) • Marie’s objection to Frank’s examination (40-41) • Frank’s molesting of Indian women (45-47) • David believes his uncle is a criminal (49) • Wes struggles with the allegations made against Frank (53-54) • Ollie Young Bear and Wes’ admiration (58-60) • David wants adult status (63-64) • Gail doesn’t like Montana (65) • The Ranch (68) • Frank’s partiality to Indian women (72) • The Hayden boys’ misbehaviour (75) • Grandpa Hayden gives David a pistol (79-81) • Gail lectures Wes on how things work (85) • Marie dies (86-91) • David tells his parents what he saw (96-97) • The Indians have gathered on Circle Hill (101-102) • Wes arrests Frank and uses the basement as a jail (107-109) • David’s grandparents arrive and contest Frank’s arrest, David sees his father almost broken (114-125) • David realises he is a Hayden and what that means (126) • Julian sends men to the house to get Frank out (130-151) • Frank kills himself (154-162) • Frank is buried with full honours and family is irreconcilable (165-168) • The aftermath, the family moves on (170-174) • Don’t blame Montana, the wood still vibrates (175)