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MONTANA 1948 By Larry Watson. Character Study: Gail Hayden Ashleigh, Nerissa, Oriana, Katherine. Character. Slim & Slender Brown hair Old fashioned Mother to David Wife to Wes Daughter-in-law to Julian & Enid In her mid 30’s Lives in Bentrock but doesn’t like it.

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Montana 1948 by larry watson

MONTANA 1948By Larry Watson

Character Study:

Gail Hayden

Ashleigh, Nerissa, Oriana, Katherine


  • Slim & Slender

  • Brown hair

  • Old fashioned

  • Mother to David

  • Wife to Wes

  • Daughter-in-law to Julian & Enid

  • In her mid 30’s

  • Lives in Bentrock but doesn’t like it.

  • Works in the courthouse with Wes

  • Trustworthy (Marie tells her about Frank first)

  • Is a Lutheran

  • Grew up on a farm in North Dakota

Strengths weaknesses
Strengths & Weaknesses



Knows what's right and makes her life one of pursuing this.

Good at making preservatives eg. Jams , apple sauce etc.

Conventional mother

Not racist and fair to everyone.

  • Doesn’t always believe in what Wes says but eventually gives into him.

  • Is quiet and cautious

Characters thoughts
Characters Thoughts

  • “My mother was suspicious of charm. She believed its purpose was to conceal some personal deficit or lack of substance. If your character was sound you didn’t need charm.”

  • Gail believes that the family would be happier if Wes was an attorney and they lived somewhere else rather than Montana.

  • Describes herself as a ‘flatlander’ who likes the smell of dirt in the air (as in the Red River Valley of Eastern North Dakota), rather than the ice and stone of the mountains of Western Montana.

How does gail act
How does Gail act

  • “Where the Hayden's were concerned, my mother always held something back.”

  • When she sees someone down the street cough, she would slow her pace to prevent walking through the germs.

  • “Centre of the Hayden Family”

  • Liked and well respected by others, including Len and Daisy McAuley and Marie.

  • Her beliefs are strong and defends what is hers no matter what, even if that means shooting a rifle to protect her family.


  • Gail Hayden is a strong female character in the novel ‘Montana 1948’. At first she is determined that her husbands brother, Frank, be brought to justice for his actions. However this determination fades when the workers from Julian’s farm arrive to collect Frank and Gail realises the full extent of the danger to her family. It could be argued that Gail succumbs to the pressure placed on her by her husband’s family, however it is also obvious that she too places great importance of loyalty and protection of, her own family. In contrast to the actions taken by Julian, Gail’s actions and decisions are bound by a need to protect rather than to control.

Themes of book
Themes of book.

    One of the main themes of this novel is recognizing the difference between family loyalty and justice. Another theme that's not so emphasized, but definitely present, is the treatment of whites towards native americans, and another theme is abusing power. In my opinion, this act is an amalgamation of these three themes. When Gail alters her opinion on her husband's course of action, to arrest his brother Frank, she was exercising her personal belief that family loyalty is more important than justice. There could be some historical motivation for this. Because the year is 1948, sentiments of inequality amongst Native Americans and Whites were much more stronger than they are now. This could be one reason why Dr. Frank molested his female, Native American patients. Gail, on the other hand, does have a friendship with her Sioux servant, Marie. However, she still is Native American, and there possibly is some sort of racism instilled in her deep down. On top of Gail's slight racism, she knows that her family has more power than Marie. While she wants Frank to stop his horrible actions, she does not want to tarnish the family name, and she wants the family to maintain their power while silently implementing a solution. In other words, power and racism are two reasons that Gail believes in family loyalty over justice.