Montana 1948

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Ronnie Tall Bear Character Analysis

Ronnie is Marie Little Soldier’s boyfriend. He is an all-star athlete, but is not accepted to any universities because of his race. He eventually enters the military. David fondly remembers Ronnie and Marie as members of his “real” family, people bound not by the obligations of blood but rather by bonds of friendship and acceptance.

Ronnie Tall Bear Quotes in Montana 1948

The Montana 1948 quotes below are all either spoken by Ronnie Tall Bear or refer to Ronnie Tall Bear. 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.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I never wondered then, as I do now, why a college didn’t snap up an athlete like Ronnie. Then, I knew, without being told, as if it were knowledge that I drank in the water, that college was not for Indians.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Ronnie Tall Bear
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David mentions some of the racism and bigotry inherent in Montana society in the 1940s. David knew of a young Native American man named Ronnie Tall Bear, who was an exceptionally gifted athlete. Ronnie would have made a fine athlete at any number of great colleges--and yet, David recalls, Ronnie never attended a college. At the time, David didn't think too deeply about why Ronnie never went to college; he just accepted that college wasn't a place for Native Americans like Ronnie. Now, it seems perfectly obvious to question why Ronnie would never have been allowed in a college--and to see the unwritten racist rules of higher education and society itself. Thus, the passage conveys the extent of the apartheid state in America in the 1940s: certain races and ethnicities simply weren't treated fairly.


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Epilogue Quotes

I believe I remembered the incident so fondly not only because I was with Marie and Ronnie, both of whom I loved in my way, but also because I felt, for that brief span, as though I was part of a family, a family that accepted me for myself and not my blood or birthright.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Marie Little Soldier, Ronnie Tall Bear
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David answers a strongly implied question in the novel: what other options are there in place of literal, biological family? Wesley’s family is in ruins, since his brother, Frank, has turned out to be a molester and murderer of Native American women, and has committed suicide when confronted with his crimes. Furthermore, Wesley's father has essentially banished Wesley from Montana, and never speaks to him again. Here, though, David suggests that it’s possible to make one’s own family connections—not a family based on blood, but one built around human connection and love. David isn’t literally related to Ronnie or Marie, but he feels a close connection to them both, particularly in this singular moment that stays with him forever. Perhaps it’s intimate, voluntary connections, not the solemn traditions of a “family name,” that define a real family.

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Ronnie Tall Bear Character Timeline in Montana 1948

The timeline below shows where the character Ronnie Tall Bear appears in Montana 1948. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Marie has a boyfriend named Ronnie Tall Bear, whom David worships. Ronnie is perhaps the most accomplished athlete to ever graduate... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
One memory of Marie has stuck with David after 40 years. He, Marie, and Ronnie had been playing football in the yard, and he remembers thinking of them as his... (full context)