Montana 1948

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The Wind Symbol Analysis

The Wind Symbol Icon
Montana 1948 frequently references the windiness of Bentrock, Montana. Gail loves the wind, because she feels it has a kind of cleansing effect, though she notes the wind in Montana smells too much of ice and rock (a lifeless smell), and wishes it smelled more like dirt (organic and full of life). Grandpa Julian, meanwhile, aggressively states that anybody who doesn’t like wind ought to get out of Montana. The wind is a natural result of the setting, but it also symbolizes the unavoidability and often harshness of change, bringing to mind the phrase “winds of change.” It blows incessantly, just as time moves irreversibly forward, and as David comes to understand his childhood will not last forever, and that adulthood brings with it new and difficult challenges, the wind serves to underscore that this is a story about dramatic and irreversible change.

The Wind Quotes in Montana 1948

The Montana 1948 quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Wind. 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

The harshness of the land and the flattening effect of wind and sky probably accounted for the relative tranquility of Mercer County. Life was simply too hard…nothing was left over for raising hell or making trouble.

Related Characters: David Hayden (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wind
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, David immediately draws a connection between the people of Mercer County, Montana, and the natural world. The environment itself is harsh and desolate--there's not much around but wind and dust. Humans have had to fight a long battle with the natural world in order to build civilization in this part of Montana. Such a battle is so long and difficult that there's not much time left over for "mischief." In other words, Mercer County is a calm, tranquil place because everyone works so hard just to get by.

The passage is suspenseful, even theatrical, because it immediately suggests that there was, in fact, some "trouble" in Montana--and that's what David is going to tell us about. And yet, as David will show, much of the "trouble" in Mercer County took place in secret, beneath this facade of tranquility and hard work. As David matures, he'll become more aware of the secret evils taking place in his beloved hometown.

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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.

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The Wind Symbol Timeline in Montana 1948

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Wind 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
...for help in an unfamiliar, frantic voice. The third is of his mother in the window, on a hot and windy day, loading his father’s shotgun. (full context)
Chapter 1
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...unpaved and the climate is difficult—residents must deal with extreme changes in temperature and never-ending wind. David guesses that the harsh and demanding climate keeps people so busy they can rarely... (full context)
Chapter 2
Identity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...“possible” trouble on the reservation. She then changes the subject, telling David she loves the wind, because it always feels as though it is “bringing something new.” She says she is... (full context)
Racism, Prejudice, and the American West Theme Icon
...bad happen to Frank, his favorite son. Wesley casually remarks to his father about the wind, and Julian responds judgmentally: “If you don’t like wind, you don’t like Montana.” (full context)