Montana 1948

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:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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“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:

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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:

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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)