Montana 1948

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Wesley Hayden Character Analysis

David’s father and the elected Sheriff of Mercer County. Wesley has always felt inferior to his older brother Frank, who is a doctor and hero of WWII. Wesley has an injured leg (from a horse kick in his youth) that causes him to walk with a limp, and prevented him from serving in the military. Wesley’s father was also Sheriff, and though Wesley followed in Grandpa Hayden’s footsteps, he has always played second fiddle to his brother, who is by far the favorite son. Wesley graduated from law school, and his wife Gail insists he would be happier practicing law than being the sheriff. Wesley generally dislikes Native Americans, a fact that David often tries to forget or ignore. He believes they are lazy and foolish. His prejudice prevents him from seeing his brother’s crimes for what they are, and it takes Wesley some time to realize his brother is a predator who has deliberately victimized many women and has murdered Marie Little Soldier. Once he comes around to this fact, however, he fights determinedly for justice, despite threats from his father and the reality that Mercer County will never convict a man as beloved as Frank Hayden.

Wesley Hayden Quotes in Montana 1948

The Montana 1948 quotes below are all either spoken by Wesley Hayden or refer to Wesley 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.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Montana 1948 quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 1 Quotes

As long as my father was going to be a sheriff, a position with so much potential for excitement, danger, and bravery, why couldn’t some of that promise be fulfilled?

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Wesley Hayden, David's father. Wesley isn't at all like the stereotypical sheriffs David has met in "cowboy and Indian" Westerns--on the contrary, he's polite, laid back, and generally mild-mannered. In this, Wesley seems to be a disappointment his son: David wants a father who fights heroic battles and arrests lots of criminals.

In short, David is bored. He wishes that his life in Montana were a little more interesting--as far as he can tell, nothing of any importance happens anywhere nearby. As David learns more about his community, though, he'll come to realize that there is, in fact, a great deal of crime going on beneath the surface--and furthermore, he'll come to see how childish and narrow-minded his longings for violence and crime (and his ideas about heroism) were all along.

The sheriff of Mercer County was elected, but such was my grandfather’s popularity and influence—and the weight of the Hayden name—that it was enough for my grandfather to say…now I want my son to have this job…It would never have occurred to my father to refuse.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Grandpa Hayden (Julian)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David explains that his family is, essentially, Montana royalty. David's grandfather, Julian Hayden, is a well-known figure, prosperous and well-respected. As a result, David's father, Wesley, has a lot to live up to: he wants to impress his father and honor the Hayden name. Thus, when Julian pulls some strings to ensure that Wesley will become the next sheriff, Wesley has to accept: he doesn't want to disappoint his dad.

The passage shows the first hints of corruption in town. For now, the corruption is pretty "standard," just some "good ole boy" nepotism (a father getting his son a good job, but potentially ousting others who were more qualified). And yet the passage shows signs of a tension in the Hayden family: Wesley is loyal and indebted to his family, but he also seems to resent his father telling him what to do at all times. Deliberately, Watson doesn't tell us right away what the crime in Montana was--he leaves us to guess. For now, it seems possible that the crime might have had something to do with Wesley and his father.

“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

“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.

He had long since stopped being my father. He was now my interrogator, my cross-examiner. The Sheriff. My Uncle’s brother.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David explains to his parents that he’s seen Frank walking to and from the house the previous afternoon. Wesley is very curious about David’s story: he asks David lots of questions about when, exactly, Frank was walking around the house, and what he looked like. As David answers his father’s questions, he can feel his father transforming into a different kind of person altogether. Wesley isn’t acting fatherly at all: on the contrary, he’s acting like a sheriff—deliberate, sharp, serious, etc. David also notes that Wesley is acting like Frank’s brother. The big question in the second half of the book is whether or not Wesley is capable of being sheriff and Frank’s brother (and David's father, as David himself is now involved) at the same time—how to parse out the different parts of his identity, weighing loyalty against justice, family against the law.

Chapter 3 Quotes

He was building a case, and my father did this the same way he ran for reelection—by gathering in friends and favors. I suppose he was collecting evidence as well, but that part was never as obvious to me. What he seemed intent on doing—just as boys at play do, just as nations at war do—was getting people to be on his side.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, David watches his father being more social than usual—a practice that usually means that Wesley is running for reelection as sheriff. This time, Wesley is trying to build as much community loyalty as possible before he arrests Frank for molesting Native American women: he wants to be sure that when he arrests a hugely popular local, his own brother, people will support him in his actions.

As David notes, Wesley seems to be becoming like Frank in the act of preparing to arrest him: in other words, he’s being witty and social, generally charming people into agreeing with him. One could say that Wesley is changing his entire personality as he pursues his brother. Wesley is no longer content to sit back and allow his brother to occupy the spotlight—nor is he willing to let his brother get away with crime. Watson suggests that Wesley is acting both out of an abstract sense of justice and a highly personal desire to boot his brother off the “pedestal.”

I suddenly felt sorry for my father—not as he stood before me at that moment, but as a boy. What must it have been like to have a father capable of speaking to you like that?

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Grandpa Hayden (Julian)
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Wesley faces his parents’ fury when he suggests that their son is a molester, and should be in jail for his crimes. Here, Wesley’s father, Julian, yells at him, furious that Wesley is attacking Julian’s favorite son, Frank. David is sorry that Wesley had to grow up in a house in which Julian was such a harsh, prejudiced master: Wesley must have endured a lot of verbal abuse over the years.

The passage shows that David is becoming more mature: he’s beginning to put himself in other people’s shoes and see the world from their point of view. By recognizing that even his father used to be a child, David asserts his own wisdom, and ceases to be a child himself.

“Screwing an Indian. Or feeling her up or whatever. You don’t lock up a man for that. You don’t lock up your brother. A respected man. A war hero.”

Related Characters: Grandpa Hayden (Julian) (speaker), Wesley Hayden, Frank Hayden
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, David eavesdrops on his grandfather Julian as he verbally abuses Wesley, David’s father. Wesley is suggesting to Julian that Frank—who’s always been the favorite child—should be sent to prison for molesting his Native American patients. Julian doesn’t deny that Frank has molested some Native American women; he simply says that such actions aren’t really crimes at all.

Put bluntly: Julian is an openly racist character—someone who doesn’t consider Native Americans “real” Americans, or even real humans, deserving of basic dignity and rights. Thus, he lashes out at Wesley for suggesting that Frank is anything other than a great man. Julian argues that Wesley shouldn’t arrest his own brother—and yet Frank, in spite of being Wesley’s brother, is a vile criminal, and deserves to be locked up. One wonders how much of Wesley’s motivation for arresting his brother is an abstract respect for the law and how much is his desire to assert his independence from his own family and his overbearing, racist father.

“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.

Get the entire Montana 1948 LitChart as a printable PDF.
Montana 1948.pdf.medium

Wesley Hayden Character Timeline in Montana 1948

The timeline below shows where the character Wesley 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
...bed in David’s house that David is afraid 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.... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...ago. Two months ago, David’s mother died, suddenly and quickly, of a heart attack. His father died a slow and painful death of cancer 10 years ago. He will not tell... (full context)
Chapter 1
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...II is still palpable in Mercer county. Many men had been in combat—though not David’s father Wesley, who has a bum leg due to a kick from a horse—and now they... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
This tranquility makes for easy work for Wesley Hayden, who is the Mercer County sheriff. As a general rule, being the Sheriff of... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Wesley does not meet David’s standards in this way, but he also fails to meet his... (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 terms, along with his deputy,... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
When David’s parents return home his father remarks that David is “babysitting the babysitter.” This is the first time David realizes Marie... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
David first learned of his father’s racism when he was about seven or eight. He received moccasins as a birthday gift... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wesley gets on the phone immediately. David hears has father tell his Aunt Gloria to put... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Wesley tells Frank that Marie is sick, and warns him she does not want to be... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...David is struck by how handsome and charismatic he is. He feels sorry for his father, who seems to him a less attractive and less impressive version of Frank, who was... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Uncle Frank asks for a drink and Wesley offers him some of Ole Norgaard’s homebrewed beer. Frank says he might have some after... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wesley tells David to come wait outside on the porch. They hear muffled shouts of “no”... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wesley asks if Marie should be in a hospital. Frank responds that Marie would probably never... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Gail doesn’t understand the question. Wesley asks if she’s telling him because he is Frank’s brother, because he is her husband,... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
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.... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...check on Marie one more time. When she comes out she looks exhausted and frail. Wesley is eating some chocolate cake that Daisy brought over, and casually asks Gail how Marie... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Wesley tells Gail he doesn’t want this all over town, reminding her that they have no... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...about being addressed, and hopes he doesn’t give away the fact that he’s been eavesdropping. Wesley tells Gail not to bring David into this. She asks him again why he won’t... (full context)
Chapter 2
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
The next day Wesley goes to the reservation, though he has no jurisdiction there, to investigate Marie’s accusations. Later... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
While Wesley talks to Marie, Gail takes David for a short walk outside. David works up the... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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 Frank would... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...already parked out front. The house is large and expensively decorated in a way that Wesley believes is cliché and tacky. But David loves the house, because it is big enough... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
...realizes that Grandpa Hayden would never let anything bad happen to Frank, his favorite son. Wesley casually remarks to his father about the wind, and Julian responds judgmentally: “If you don’t... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
David hears his father ask Grandpa Hayden if he has a minute to talk about Frank. David has the... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
David goes for a ride on his horse Nutty around his Grandfather’s ranch. As he rides, he sees his father and Uncle Frank talking down by a... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...sitting in the McAuley’s outhouse, on his way to go fishing, when he’d seen it. Wesley presses him, interrogating him about the exact time, how sure he was. David remarks that... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Wesley desperately tries to rationalize this information. Perhaps Frank was merely checking in on his patient.... (full context)
Chapter 3
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
In the days following Marie’s death, Wesley works long hours, and looks more and more exhausted. He is socializing more than usual,... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Three days after Marie’s death, Wesley brings Frank into the house. Frank seems cheerful, but Wesley looks ragged, and simply directs... (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 be spared the... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wesley says he has not given any details to Mel Paddock, the state attorney. He wants... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...know where Frank is (Gloria has talked to them). Grandpa Julian is yelling relentlessly at Wesley, and David feels sorry for his father, and wonders what his father’s childhood must have... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
...to the conversation through an air vent in the kitchen. Julian demands to know why Wesley would throw Frank in jail for “beating up some Indian.” Wesley realizes Gloria has not... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Julian tells Wesley to “stop this before I have to.” Wesley does not respond. Grandma Hayden cries. Finally... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
The next day Wesley leaves to see what other arrangements he can make for Frank. David thinks about how... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...big hug. David thinks the three of them—him, his mom, and Len—look like a family. Wesley comes running across the street and asks what happened. Gail tells him about the men... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Wesley announces that he will speak to his father, and that he will make sure Len... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
They go back inside and Wesley goes down to the basement, presumably to release Frank. In the kitchen, Gail asks Len... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Wesley comes back upstairs looking angry, and says he will move Frank to the jail first... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...already awake. They tell him Frank is deliberately smashing the canning jars, one by one. Wesley says he is doing it for attention, and that no one should go downstairs. They... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...too early the next morning. When he goes downstairs he is surprised to find his father already awake and sitting at the kitchen table. Wesley says he is waiting to hear... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Wesley gets up to make coffee and tells David a story about one day when he... (full context)
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
When the coffee is finished Wesley says he will take some down to Frank now and wake him up if he... (full context)
Epilogue
Law versus Justice Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...person who saw Frank’s injuries) has kept the Hayden’s secret. His crimes were also kept secret—Wesley noted this was for the best, as Frank had never been proven guilty in a... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...by their keeping the secret of Uncle Frank for so long. He thinks his own father’s cancer is also a result of guilt. (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
...alive, she brings it up, lightly commenting, “that sure was the Wild West, wasn’t it?” Wesley responds angrily, slamming his hand on the table and saying “Don’t blame Montana! Don’t ever... (full context)