Killers of the Flower Moon

by

David Grann

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Mollie Burkhart Character Analysis

One of the text’s three major protagonists, Mollie is an Osage woman who soon becomes a “marked woman”—the final intended victim in a vast and evil conspiracy to consolidate and strip away her oil-rich family’s vast wealth. Mollie’s struggles to honor the traditions of her tribe’s past while conforming to the more-or-less forced assimilation policies which consumed her and her sisters’ childhoods forms the emotional crux of a large part of the book’s first third. Grann uses Mollie’s mounting sense of dread as her family members are picked off one by one to heighten the sense of injustice and horror which characterized the Osage Reign of Terror.

Mollie Burkhart Quotes in Killers of the Flower Moon

The Killers of the Flower Moon quotes below are all either spoken by Mollie Burkhart or refer to Mollie Burkhart. 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:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Killers of the Flower Moon published in 2018.
Chapter 3 Quotes

Lizzie relied on Mollie to deal with the authorities. During Lizzie's lifetime, the Osage had become dramatically unmoored from their traditions. Louis F. Burns, an Osage historian, wrote that after oil was discovered, the tribe had been “set adrift in a strange world,” adding, “There was nothing familiar to clutch and stay afloat in the world of white man's wealth.” In the old days, an Osage clan, which included a group known as the Travelers in the Mist, would take the lead whenever the tribe was undergoing sudden changes or venturing into unfamiliar realms. Mollie, though she often felt bewildered by the upheaval around her took the lead for her family—a modern traveler in the mist. She spoke English and was married to a white man, and she had not succumbed to the temptations that had hurt many young members of the tribe, including Anna. To some Osage, especially elders like Lizzie, oil was a cursed blessing. “Some day this oil will go and there will be no more fat checks every few months from the Great White Father,” a chief of the Osage said in 1928. “There'll be no fine motorcars and new clothes. Then I know my people will be happier.”

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Mollie Burkhart, Anna Brown, Lizzie
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 27-28
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

White and his men felt a growing sense of progress. A Justice Department prosecutor sent Hoover a note, saying that in the few months since White had assumed command of the investigation, "many new angles of these cases were successfully developed" and a "new and enthusiastic spirit seemed to pervade the hearts of all of us."

Still, White faced the same problem with the investigation of Mollie Burkhart's murdered family that he did with his inquiry into Roan's death. There was no physical evidence or witnesses to prove that Hale had carried out or ordered any of the killings. And without an airtight case White knew that he'd never be able to bring down this man [Hale] who hid behind layers of respectability—who called himself the Reverend—and who used a network of patronage to influence the sheriff's office, prosecutors, judges, and some of the highest state officials.

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Tom White, Mollie Burkhart, William K. Hale
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Many people in the gallery gossiped about an Osage woman who was sitting on one of the benches, quiet and alone. It was Mollie Burkhart, cast out from the two worlds that she'd always straddled: whites, loyal to Hale, shunned her, while many Osage ostracized her for bringing the killers among them and for remaining loyal to Ernest. Reporters portrayed her as an “ignorant squaw.” The press hounded her for a statement, but she refused to give one. Later, a reporter snapped her picture, her face defiantly composed, and a “new and exclusive picture of Mollie Burkhart” was transmitted around the world.

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Mollie Burkhart, Ernest Burkhart
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

There was another dramatic change in Mollie's life. She and the Osage had fought to end the corrupt system of guardianships, and on April 21, 1931, a court ruled that Mollie was no longer a ward of the state: “IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED BY THE COURT, that the said Mollie Burkhart, Osage Allottee No. 285, ... is hereby restored to competency, and the order heretofore made adjudging her to be an incompetent person is hereby vacated.” At forty-four, Mollie could finally spend her money as she pleased, and was recognized as a full-fledged American citizen.

Related Characters: David Grann (speaker), Mollie Burkhart
Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mollie Burkhart Character Timeline in Killers of the Flower Moon

The timeline below shows where the character Mollie Burkhart appears in Killers of the Flower Moon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Vanishing
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On May 24, 1921, Mollie Burkhart—an Osage Indian and a resident of the Osage settlement town of Gray Horse, Oklahoma,... (full context)
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Mollie and her sisters—and their parents, too—have their names inscribed on the Osage Roll: they are... (full context)
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Mollie doesn’t spend as lavishly as some of her neighbors, but still lives a life of... (full context)
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Mollie was one of the last people to see Anna before she disappeared. On that day—May... (full context)
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Mollie’s husband, Ernest Burkhart, woke with her. A twenty-eight-year-old white man, Ernest was born in Texas,... (full context)
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On May 21, Mollie hosted a small luncheon. The house bustled with preparations while Mollie tended to her sick... (full context)
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...over the course of the party, with Ernest’s younger brother Bryan—and also began fighting with Mollie and her mother. (full context)
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...over, Fairfax, to see a musical, Bryan offered to drop the intoxicated Anna at home. Mollie, who was planning on staying home with her mother Lizzie, helped sober Anna up and... (full context)
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Now that Anna has been missing for days, Mollie has grown more and more anxious. Bryan has insisted that that night, he took Anna... (full context)
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...is popular in town, and went missing on May 14. Despite knowing of Whitehorn’s disappearance, Mollie tries to keep calm, telling herself that Anna is simply off on one of her... (full context)
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Mathis contacts Mollie, and she, her sister Rita, Rita’s husband Bill Smith, Ernest, and Bryan make their way... (full context)
Chapter 2: An Act of God or Man?
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...has died by an act of God or man. Two doctors who often care for Mollie’s family—a pair of brothers named James and David Shoun—begin to perform an autopsy using primitive... (full context)
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...deep grief—she had already descended into poor health, and her fraught condition begins to worsen. Mollie throws herself into organizing Anna’s funeral, an exorbitantly expensive affair—undertakers at the time frequently charged... (full context)
Chapter 3: King of the Osage Hills
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Lizzie relies on Mollie to deal with the authorities—during her lifetime, the older woman has been “unmoored” from the... (full context)
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The racist authorities have little concern for a “dead Injun,” and so Mollie turns to Ernest’s uncle, William Hale, a “powerful local advocate for law and order.” Hale,... (full context)
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Mollie, Bryan, and Ernest are all questioned about the last time they saw Anna. As Bryan... (full context)
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...someone on the reservation committed the crime and is “living among them in sheep’s clothing.” Mollie begins to suspect Anna’s ex-husband, Oda Brown, a no-good carouser, who was shut out of... (full context)
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...mystery—just as he did with Whitehorn’s. Lizzie, meanwhile, has grown sicker and sicker, and despite Mollie seeking the help of Osage medicine men, Lizzie dies in July, just two months after... (full context)
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Mollie’s brother-in-law Bill Smith—a “bruising bulldog of a man”—expresses his deep frustration over the authorities’ investigation,... (full context)
Chapter 4: Underground Reservation
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Mollie was ten years old when the oil was first discovered, but the “tangled history” of... (full context)
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...of ancestral land, and then made their way to a 50-by-125-mile area in southeastern Kansas. Mollie’s mother and father came of age in this place, in the mid-1840s; they grew up... (full context)
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As settlers strove to assimilate and indoctrinate the Osage tribe, Mollie’s parents struggled to hold onto their customs. When Mollie and her sisters were born in... (full context)
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At school, Mollie was forced to remove her traditional tribal clothing—including her Indian blanket—and dress in a plain... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Devil’s Disciples
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...or Charles Whitehorn’s murder investigations—both families turn to the only means at their disposal: money. Mollie offers up a $2,000 cash reward for any information leading to the arrest of those... (full context)
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The private detectives share their information with Bill Smith, who is married to Mollie’s sister Rita and is conducting his own investigation. Before “attaching himself to an Osage fortune,”... (full context)
Chapter 6: Million Dollar Elm
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...members of the tribe, while “unscrupulous” accountants and lawyers seek to exploit their bank accounts. Mollie, as a full-blooded Osage, is made to have a guardian oversee her finances; she chooses... (full context)
Chapter 7: This Thing of Darkness
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As the news reaches town, Mollie is “jolted” by Roan’s death. In 1902—more than a decade before meeting Ernest—she and Roan... (full context)
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Paranoia takes over Mollie’s family, too, and soon Rita and her husband Bill Smith, after hearing “jostling” outside their... (full context)
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...a blast beneath their house is heard, far and wide, by neighbors and other witnesses. Mollie and Ernest, home in bed, feel the explosion, too. Ernest, in his slippers and pajamas,... (full context)
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...ties to the state, and while the tribe waits for the federal government to respond, Mollie lives in fear and dread, knowing she is the “likely next target in the apparent... (full context)
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Seeing that even Hale is vulnerable, Mollie retreats into her house—she no longer entertains neighbors and friends or attends church, and rumors... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Undercover Cowboys
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...and three of the victims—Anna, Rita, and Lizzie—were related. The files hold little information about Mollie, the last surviving member of her family, and White wonders why nobody has interviewed her. (full context)
Chapter 11: The Third Man
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By the end of July 1925, White has turned his “full attention” to Bryan Burkhart, Mollie’s brother-in-law—the last of the listed suspects in Anna Brown’s murder. Bryan’s alibi seems airtight, and... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Wilderness of Mirrors
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...Burkhart, who was careful never to discuss the case in the presence of his wife Mollie. (full context)
Chapter 14: Dying Words
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In September of 1925, Tom White begins to wonder whether the slain Bill Smith, Mollie’s brother-in-law, had begun to unravel the truth behind the murders—and whether a larger conspiracy connected... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Hidden Face
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...records, he notices that more and more headrights are being passed down to one person: Mollie Burkhart, who is married to Hale’s nephew Ernest—and who, one of White’ agents writes, is... (full context)
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...now that the chronology of the murder is part of a ruthless plan to leave Mollie as the sole inheritor of a large group of headrights—so that when she is at... (full context)
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What White can’t figure out is whether Ernest’s marriage to Mollie, four years before Anna’s murder, was part of the plot all along—or whether Hale, at... (full context)
Chapter 18: The State of the Game
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Meanwhile White continues worrying about Mollie—he has suspicions about her complications from “diabetes,” and worries that she will soon be killed... (full context)
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...Hale told Ernest of the plan, Ernest protested, but Hale reminded Ernest that he and Mollie stood to inherit all of the couple’s money. Burkhart, who had long idolized his uncle,... (full context)
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...The authorities set out to arrest Morrison, and White sends a doctor to check on Mollie. She seems near-death, and authorities, judging her symptoms, believe she is being poisoned. Mollie is... (full context)
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When Mollie is feeling well enough, she, too, submits to questioning. When faced with the truth, she... (full context)
Chapter 19: A Traitor to His Blood
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...“blood-curdling” details far and wide. Meanwhile, White remains consumed with the cases involving Roan and Mollie Burkhart’s family—and with trying to connect Hale to even more of the twenty-four Osage murders,... (full context)
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...one of the benches, an Osage woman sits quiet and alone, away from all the madness—Mollie Burkhart. Ostracized by her white neighbors who are loyal to Hale and rejected by many... (full context)
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...one of their former informants. Morrison testifies that Hale plotted to eliminate the members of Mollie’s family so that “Ernest would get it all.” Morrison confesses to murdering Anna Brown—at Hale’s... (full context)
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On June 3, Mollie is called away from the trail—her youngest daughter with Ernest, Little Anna, has died at... (full context)
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...Burkhart is sentenced to life imprisonment—as he is led away in irons, he smiles at Mollie, but her expression remains impassive. (full context)
Chapter 20: So Help You God!
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A year later, Anna Brown’s murder is prosecuted. Mollie attends the trial and sits and listens to the “gruesome details” of how Bryan Burkhart,... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Hot House
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Mollie Burkhart, no longer suffering from medical maladies, returns to social life and church. She falls... (full context)
Chapter 22: Ghostlands
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...stylishly-dressed Osage woman in her fifties approaches Grann and introduces herself as Margie Burkhart—she is Mollie’s granddaughter, and her father was James “Cowboy” Burkhart, Mollie and Ernest’s son. (full context)
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...the knowledge of what Ernest Burkhart did. Ernest was paroled in 1937, the year of Mollie’s death. Shortly after Ernest got out, he robbed an Osage home and was sent back... (full context)
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...spare wooden home. Maggie explains that the Great Depression wiped out many Osage fortunes, and Mollie’s was no exception. The price of a barrel of oil plummeted in 1931, and annual... (full context)
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After stopping at a cemetery to visit the graves of Mollie, Anna, Rita, Minnie, Lizzie, Bill Smith, and other victims of the Reign of Terror, Margie... (full context)
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...father once told her that on the night of the explosion, he, his sister, and Mollie had been planning to spend the night at Bill and Rita’s. They only stayed home... (full context)
Chapter 26: Blood Cries Out
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...men who botched Anna’s autopsy, covered for Hale, took hold of Rita’s estate, and injected Mollie with poison. Grann realizes that the success of many Osage murder plots rested on the... (full context)