Montana 1948

Montana 1948 Metaphors and Similes

Sioux Picture Calendars (Simile)

“That’s the way these images coexist in my memory, like the Sioux picture calendars in which the whole year’s events are painted on the same buffalo hide” (Watson 12).

The format of Montana 1948 is a bit unusual in that the narrator, David Hayden, is an adult recounting events from his childhood. These events and the story they form exist in David’s mind as a series of vivid, lasting, and indelible images. Although he’s sharing these images in chronological order, to David these images don’t have a linear sequence, but are “tumbled together” (Watson 12). Each image or moment occurs at the same time as the other, which reminds David of a Sioux picture calendar where a year’s worth of events are depicted on the same surface side by side. Thus he uses a simile to compare his memories to those Sioux picture calendars.

End of the War (Metaphor)

“And 1948 still felt like a new, blessedly peaceful era. The exuberance of the war’s end had faded but the relief had not. The mundane, workaday world was a gift that had not outworn its shine” (Watson 14).

World War II had reverberating effects around the globe. Everyone from your average farm worker to world leaders felt its impact. In the above quote David remarks on the widespread relief his community continues to have years after the war’s end. To really stress the level of relief and gratefulness everyone feels, he uses a metaphor to compare the mundane and boring workday to an exciting gift that still feels new. Clearly, everyone can still remember the chaos and fear World War II caused, and are grateful for normal, pedestrian life.

The Coyote (Metaphor)

“'And did you see a coyote?'

How did she know I was given a pistol for hunting coyotes? 'No,' I said, 'but I was looking.'

'He’s hard to see when you look for him'” (Watson 88).

David and Marie have this brief conversation after David and his family return from his grandparent’s ranch. While at the ranch, Grandpa Hayden gives David a pistol when he goes riding in case he sees a coyote and needs protection. Though he doesn’t see a coyote, David does witness his father and uncle have a heated conversation, presumably about Frank’s rape of Native American women. During their talk Frank takes a menacing step towards Wesley, and David gets worried for his father. He pulls out the unloaded pistol and aims it at his uncle, but then sees the two men shake hands and so puts the gun away. Marie of course doesn’t know any of this happened, but asks if David spotted any coyotes. When David tells her no, she calls the coyote “he,” and says that he’s hard to see. Frank is the metaphorical coyote Marie is referring to, and when she says he’s hard to see, she means that Frank is hard to catch and hold accountable. In Native American folklore, coyotes are a prominent character, and known as tricksters who sometimes take the form of men. In the U.S., coyotes have a negative reputation as cowardly, wily, and deceptive animals that prey on the vulnerable. All of this makes the coyote an apt metaphor for Frank, who manages to deceive everyone around him that he is a kind and honorable man. He's wily because he uses his brother's position as a sheriff and the lack of any real law enforcement on the Native American reservation to his advantage. Frank knows that very few people will believe the words of Native Americans over his own, and exploits that fact to prey on vulnerable Native American women.

Voices (Simile)

“The voices below were going on without me, like a furnace that doesn’t care if anyone is there to feel its heat or not” (Watson 125).

David uses the simile of a hot furnace to describe the voices of his parents and grandparents as they discuss Frank and his crimes. Their voices are so loud, heated, and agitated that they remind him of a furnace’s intense heat. Furthermore, they are so excited that they no longer care if he can hear them argue, similar to how a furnace continues to burn regardless if there’s anyone there to feel its warmth.

Frank’s Death (Metaphor)

“Frank’s death was an unbridgeable gulf between us” (Watson 173).

From the moment they hear of Frank’s arrest, Grandpa and Grandma Hayden make it clear where they stand. Regardless of Frank’s crimes, they don’t think Wesley should have arrested his older brother, and argue with him to release Frank. This news isn’t shocking to Wesley, who’s accustomed to his father and mother taking his brother’s side. Upon Frank’s death, this division is solidified. At his funeral, David and his parents stand on one side of the grave, and his grandparents on the other. To David, this is their differences in opinion made manifest. He uses a metaphor to compare his uncle’s death to an insurmountable chasm that the remaining members of the Hayden family cannot cross.