Montana 1948

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Montana 1948 Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Larry Watson's Montana 1948. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Larry Watson
Larry Watson is a novelist and poet who grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota. He received a BFA and MFA from the University of North Dakota and eventually earned a doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of Utah. As a native of the Midwest, Watson often writes fiction incorporating distinctive Midwestern settings and landscapes. He has written several novels and one collection of poetry, and has earned various awards for his fiction. He taught English at the University of Wisconsin for 25 years before becoming a visiting professor at Marquette University. He currently lives with his wife in Milwaukee, with whom he has two daughters and two grandchildren.
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Historical Context of Montana 1948
The book takes place only three years after the end of World War II, in a small Montana town neighboring a Native American Reservation. After WWII, Americans were elated at the allied victory and admiring of the bravery and heroism of US soldiers, but the war also brought with it several unhappy realizations: the holocaust in Germany and the dropping of the first two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki incited new dialogues about human capacity for evil and prejudice and the threat of virtually apocalyptic new technologies. In many ways the postwar climate in America was one where celebration and pride barely disguised profound new worries about the future. The story accordingly investigates hidden evils in an “all-American” Midwestern town, and puts pressure on the concepts of heroism, justice, and liberty by drawing attention to the bigotry and abuse of power that often exist just under the surface.
Other Books Related to Montana 1948
Montana 1948 is deliberately engaging the “western” genre: stories about heroes like those represented by Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and so many others, and the traditional western trope of Cowboys versus Indians. Watson’s tale positions itself as a kind of antidote to these kinds of fictions by revealing the “real” American West—a place where heroes are not what they seem to be, and where “Cowboys” and “Indians” are not caricatures, but people.
Key Facts about Montana 1948
  • Full Title: Montana 1948
  • When Written: 1992-1993
  • Where Written: Stevens Point, Wisconsin
  • When Published: 1993
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Mercer County in the fictional town of Bentrock, Montana
  • Climax: Wesley goes down to the basement to discover that Frank has slit his wrists with the glass from Gail’s preserve jars, preferring death over public arrest.
  • Antagonist: Frank Hayden
  • Point of View: First person (David Hayden)
Extra Credit for Montana 1948

Prizewinner. Montana 1948 was awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize in 1993.