In Larry Watson’s novel, Montana 1948, irony is used to illustrate the human flaws of the antagonist Frank Hayden. Irony is defined as the use of words to express the opposite of what one really wants. In the beginning of the novel, Frank is conveyed as the handsome, charming, war hero but as the story unfolds, Frank’s true identity is exposed. He is merely a rapist, racist, sexist, murderer whose main goal is to get what he wants despite who is hurt in the process. Irony, in this novel, is not only displayed through Frank’s character but it is also shown through other characters in the book and the society.
In the society of Mercer County, Ollie Bear is a significant character along with Frank who perceives the double meaning. Irony in the novel is shown to not just stem from Frank, but starts with the environment of the society and other characters in Mercer County. Frank’s society in Mercer County shares the same type of irony because of the outlook of being quiet and civil, but looking into the inside of what it means to live there is the opposite from being quiet. In the novel of Montana 1948, irony is conveyed in the beginning as the narrator depicts the setting of the town.
The narrator mentions “Mercer County is plains, flat as a tabletop on its western edge…. Life was simply hard, so much time and energy went into keeping yourself alive… that nothing was left over for raising hell or making trouble” (p4). When the author makes this statement he talks in general terms of how the town is at first glance and leaves the irony for the story to unravel. He fails to explain what physically happens on the flat plains. The author also shows irony when he starts to explain how one does not have enough time for anything not even trouble.
The irony is shown in the phrase by not actually being true throughout the novel. There was trouble starting with Frank, his family or other miscellous characters. Coming back into recognition that there is plenty to do in Mercer County. In the novel, irony is not just shown through the society of Mercer County but in the secret lives of certain characters. A character that shares the same ironic traits as Frank would be his good friend Ollie Bear. This character is significant to the irony in the novel due to his nationality which is being white and Native American.
The irony in Ollie Bear stems from him not embracing his heritage equally and that is to celebrate being white as well as Native American. This is shown when he says “the perfect choice for white people to point to us as an example of what Indians could be”. (p72) This is significant to irony because of the fact that being white is superior than being Indian putting emphasis is Ollie being both Indian and White and him basically admitting that he rather be white because they’re a better race.
In the novel, the character Frank is mentioned by David stating “Frank was witty, charming at smiling ease with his life and everything in it”. This is significant because he gives details to how his exterior is. Frank is a character who is considered sneaky and sly. His cover is blown when Marie, the Indian girl decides to speak out against him when she says “When he examines Indian girls he does things to them. He puts things into these girls. His instrument and his fingers. Wesley, your brother is raping these women”.
This is significant to irony because Frank is a doctor first, everything after, last. Instead of him fulfilling his duty as a doctor he abuses his authority. In the novel, irony is the theme that prevails. The character Frank is shown to live a double life. He led in the story as a positive figure then as the story unravels he is conveyed as a molester. His actions spoke for him in the long run for being a murderer as well as a coward. He is coward because he took his own life instead of facing the music. The character Frank is the ultimate definition of that which irony consists.