Montana 1948

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Wesley’s wife and David’s mother. Gail is an opinionated, idealistic woman who fights for Marie Little Soldier in spite of the fact that her alleged abuser, Frank Hayden, is a hero of the community. Unlike her husband, Gail does not harbor obvious prejudices against Native Americans, and is the first to believe Marie’s story and advocate for justice. It is frequently implied that Gail is tired of Mercer County, and wishes her husband would agree to move somewhere and practice law. She doesn’t think he can be himself as the Sheriff, and frequently pushes him to be a better and more honest man.

Gail Hayden Quotes in Montana 1948

The Montana 1948 quotes below are all either spoken by Gail Hayden or refer to Gail Hayden. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Milkweed Editions edition of Montana 1948 published in 1993.
Prologue Quotes

A story that is now only mine to tell. I may not be the only witness left—there might still be someone in that small Montana town who remembers the events as well as I, but no one knew all three of these people better. And no one loved them more.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Gail Hayden, Marie Little Soldier
Page Number: xvi
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Prologue to the novel, David Hayden lays out the plan of the book in clear, lucid terms. David was a child during the events he's going to tell us about, and now he's an adult--so his recollections of the events might be imperfect. Nevertheless, David feels a need to tell his story again: the story concerns people he loved dearly, and so by telling his story, he'll be honoring their memory. 

David is an important character in the novel because he's both an active participant in and a passive observer of the events. His main duty is to record the past--as a historian, he'll examine the evidence, in the process uncovering some information that certain people might like to forget. David suggests that the story is "his," not only because of his proximity to the people involved, but because he loved the people involved.

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Chapter 1 Quotes

“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?”

Related Characters: Wesley Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden, Marie Little Soldier, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Wesley becomes aware that his brother, Frank, may have been molesting Native American patients. Wesley's wife, Gail, has been talking to Marie Little Soldier, a Native American woman whom Frank may have molested recently. Wesley is at first reluctant to believe that his charismatic, heroic brother could be a criminal. He lashes out at Gail, asking her why she's telling him about his brother. He wonders if Gail is speaking to him as Frank's brother, the sheriff, Marie's boss, etc.

In short, the passage shows Wesley in the grips of an identity crisis. He isn't sure what he is: should he define himself by his profession, his father, his brother, etc.? By investigating his brother's indiscretions, Wesley will have to come to terms with family loyalty and unbiased justice, and he'll also learn to carve out an identity for himself.

He was not only her husband, he was a brother…brother to a pervert!

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Gail Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David becomes aware of his father's resemblance to Uncle Frank--a man David now suddenly regards as a sexual pervert. David notices that his father is calmly eating a piece of pie--a strange behavior, considering how recently he found out about Marie's molestation. Furthermore, David is disgusted by Wesley's resemblance to Frank, and suddenly finds it impossible to look his father in the face.

The passage is interesting because it shows David adopting an instinctive moral pose. He seems to be judging his father for acting so casually--suggesting that David has matured almost overnight because of the incident with Frank. Furthermore, while David's response to his father's resemblance to Frank is a little immature, it brings up a serious point: should we ever be judged for our family's actions? Intuitively, it seems, the answer is no: Wesley might look like Frank, but he's not responsible for Frank's sins in any way. Wesley's actions, however--trying to downplay the accusations against Frank, and (at this point) seemingly choosing family loyalty over unbiased justice--are worth judging.

Chapter 2 Quotes

Had I any sensitivity at all I might have recognized that all this talk about wind and dirt and mountains and childhood was my mother’s way of saying she wanted a few moments of purity, a temporary escape from the sordid drama that was playing itself out in her own house. But I was on the trail of something that would lead me out of childhood.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden
Related Symbols: The Wind
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David spends some time with his mother, Gail. Gail is very careful when talking to David about the incident with Frank and Marie: she mentions to him that it’s “possible” that there will be “trouble” in the future, but gives almost no other details about the matter. In such a way, Gail does her son the courtesy of keeping him informed, but holds back on the more unsavory details of her brother-in-law's possible acts of molestation. Instead, she speaks in a metaphorical way about the wind--a constant factor of the landscape, and a symbol of both harshness and potential change.

In all, the passage shows the divide between David and Gail at this point in David's maturity: David is so concerned with figuring out more information about Frank’s crimes that he is unable to understand his mother's feelings. He wants to know more, while Gail wants an escape from the horrible things that are coming to light around her.

“That’s not the way it works. You know that. Sins—crimes—are not supposed to go unpunished.”
Even then I knew what the irony of the conversation was: the secretary lecturing the lawyer, the law enforcement officer, on justice.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gail tells Wesley the truth about Frank’s crimes. Wesley has just had a conversation with Frank, and Frank has supposedly promised to stop molesting women. Wesley seems satisfied with the matter, but Gail insists that Frank needs to be punished for the crimes he’s already committed: he can’t be allowed to get away with sexual assault for so many years. David is mature enough to recognize the irony that Gail is telling Wesley, a law enforcement officer, how to do his job.

In a sense, Gail is exactly right: Frank deserves punishment. But it’s easier for her to say than it is for Wesley. Wesley is Frank’s brother, and he can’t bring himself to punish one of his own family members. In the end, we’ll see, Gail’s advice inspires Wesley to become a more committed sheriff, standing up for what he knows to be right instead of sweeping Frank’s crimes under the rug.

Chapter 3 Quotes

“He’s guilty as sin, Gail. He told me as much…Goddamn it! What could I have been thinking of? Maybe a jury will cut him loose. I won’t. By God, I won’t.”

Related Characters: Wesley Hayden (speaker), Gail Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Wesley spells out some of the consequences of arresting his brother for the murder of Marie. Frank has most definitely killed Marie—he admitted it to Wesley moments before. Now, Wesley is prepared to arrest Frank for his murder, in spite of the fact that they’re brothers. Wesley recognizes that it seems unjust to punish one’s own family so harshly, and yet he also recognizes his duties as the sheriff of the community.

It’s important to note that Wesley’s philosophy of justice, and that of the townspeople, reverses 180 degrees here. Previously, it has seemed that Wesley might pardon Frank for his actions, acting out of brotherly loyalty and respect for the Hayden name. Now, however, it’s clear that Wesley will enact justice “by the book,” while the jury might clear Frank out of respect for the Hayden name. As Wesley investigates Frank’s crimes further and further, his commitment to justice becomes more intense.

Epilogue Quotes

I wondered again how it could have happened—how it could be that those two people who only wanted to do right, whose only error lay in trying to be loyal to both family and justice, were now dispossessed, the ones forced to leave Bentrock and build new lives.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Gail Hayden
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that David’s parents, Gail and Wesley, are essentially forced to move away from Montana after Uncle Frank’s suicide. Wesley never speaks to Julian again, and his role in Frank’s suicide makes his continued existence as sheriff in Montana impossible. Thus, David is forced to watch as his beloved parents pack up and leave their house, taking David with them. David is mature enough to recognize the injustice here; even though Gail and Wesley were only trying to do right, while Julian was trying to conceal a racist murderer’s crimes, it’s Wesley and Gail who have to move, and Julian who remains in his position of power.

This injustice within the Hayden family then highlights the regular plight of Native Americans, for whom this kind of thing happens all the time on an institutional as well as individual level. Indeed, it's suggested that nothing changes in the status quo of Mercer County after all this--Julian, along with his racist ideals and white community support, remains in power, and the Native Americans who were molested (and killed, in Marie's case) by Frank don't even receive the comfort of having their suffering acknowledged.

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Gail Hayden Character Timeline in Montana 1948

The timeline below shows where the character Gail Hayden appears in Montana 1948. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...she will die. Another image of David’s father, kneeling on the kitchen floor, begging David’s mother for help in an unfamiliar, frantic voice. The third is of his mother in the... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...all coexist chaotically at once. That summer was forty years ago. Two months ago, David’s mother died, suddenly and quickly, of a heart attack. His father died a slow and painful... (full context)
Chapter 1
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...not meet David’s standards in this way, but he also fails to meet his wife Gail’s standards. Wesley has a degree from the University of North Dakota Law School, and has... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
David tries to explain his mother’s thinking. Grandpa Julian Hayden (Wesley’s father) had once been Sheriff of Mercer county for many... (full context)
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Another reason David’s mother wants them to leave Montana is that she fears for her son’s development. David does... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
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...a spare bedroom upstairs. One day David passes the door and hears horrible coughing. When Gail returns for her lunch break, David tells her he thinks Marie is sick. Gail is... (full context)
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Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...Marie was hired in part to look after him, not simply to clean and cook. Gail goes to check on Marie, and then tells Wesley he better call Frank, as Marie’s... (full context)
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Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
...she’s ever been seen by a “real” doctor. When he hangs up he jokingly tells Gail that Frank has agreed to do a little dance around the bed and bang on... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
...into Marie’s room and shuts the door behind him. Almost immediately Marie begins screaming for Gail. Gail goes to knock on the door ask asks if everything is okay. Frank tells... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...a hospital. Frank responds that Marie would probably never agree to go. At this moment Gail comes outside and confirms that Marie will be staying at home with them. David notices... (full context)
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Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
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Gail tells David to go into the house. Instead of doing so, he tracks around the... (full context)
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Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wesley paces and asks Gail if she believes Marie. She asks him why Marie would lie about something like this.... (full context)
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Gail doesn’t understand the question. Wesley asks if she’s telling him because he is Frank’s brother,... (full context)
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Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
When Wesley and Gail leave Marie’s room they tell David that Marie is tired and needs rest. Wesley says... (full context)
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Later that night, Gail goes in to check on Marie one more time. When she comes out she looks... (full context)
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Wesley tells Gail he doesn’t want this all over town, reminding her that they have no proof of... (full context)
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Gail emphatically asserts that David will never be treated by Frank again. David is nervous about... (full context)
Chapter 2
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When his parents get home, David overhears them. Wesley tells Gail he wants to talk to Marie again, but that he doesn’t want Gail to be... (full context)
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While Wesley talks to Marie, Gail takes David for a short walk outside. David works up the courage to ask her... (full context)
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The following Sunday, David and his parents are on their way to Grandpa Hayden’s house. Gail and Wesley had fought about going—Gail hadn’t wanted to accept the invitation because she knew... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...talk about Frank once he leaves, but realizes they can’t say anything in front of Grandmother Hayden, who has a heart condition that worsens when she becomes stressed or worried. Before... (full context)
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Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
On the way home Wesley tells Gail he talked to Frank. David pretends to b asleep in the backseat so that they... (full context)
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Marie Little Soldier dies the next day. Gail comes home shortly after 5 pm and finds her lying dead in her bed. When... (full context)
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Growing Up Theme Icon
Gail is upset with herself. Daisy insists Gail gave Marie the best possible care, but this... (full context)
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Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...to see him every day at work, and doesn’t think he can stand the guilt. Gail is silent. Wesley tells David he can go back to sleep. (full context)
Chapter 3
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Haydens cannot attend Marie’s funeral because her family wishes to bury her in North Dakota. Gail tries to explain to Marie’s mother that Marie was a part of their family too,... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...physically but a different place mentally. Wesley tells David he will tell him everything once Gail gets home. (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
When Gail gets homes Wesley tells her that Frank is in the basement because he wanted to... (full context)
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...to Mel Paddock, the state attorney. He wants to wait until he can tell Gloria. Gail tells him he should tell Gloria the truth, and tell her immediately. Before Wesley leaves... (full context)
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When David goes downstairs, his father is on his knees with his head in Gail’s lap. David is startled by how old and weak his father looks. His mother and... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...truck, and thinks the other men are also employees of Grandpa Hayden. He tells his mother and she gets worried, and tells him to call his father. David calls his father’s... (full context)
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Gail runs out the door to thank Len and gives him a big hug. David thinks... (full context)
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Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...that he will make sure Len is in the house if he is not there. Gail tells Wesley he doesn’t have to do any of this—that he can just let Frank... (full context)
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Growing Up Theme Icon
...inside and Wesley goes down to the basement, presumably to release Frank. In the kitchen, Gail asks Len how Frank killed Marie. She no longer cares about what David hears. Len... (full context)
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Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...angry, and says he will move Frank to the jail first thing in the morning. Gail drops her head. Wesley tells her Frank is guilty as sin, he has basically admitted... (full context)
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...his wrists with the broken glass from the jars. Wesley tells David to get his mother to call Len, and to not let Gail come downstairs. David is glad for an... (full context)
Epilogue
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...Hayden did not speak to each other at the funeral, nor after. Wesley agreed with Gail that he should resign from his post, and they put the house up for sale.... (full context)