A conflict is a clash or struggle between opposing forces. Montana, 1948

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Montana, 1948 Essay

A conflict is a clash or struggle between opposing forces. Montana, 1948 is full of conflicts. The hidden conflict between Frank and the Native Americans he abuses leads to a family conflict between Wesley and his brother and father. This family conflict leads to an internal conflict within Wesley fights between his obligation to the law (and the moral code it represents) and his obligation to his family (and the moral code that represents). This conflict in turn brings to light a conflict within David between the idea of manhood embodied in his uncle and the idea of manhood embodied in his father. For your Montana, 1948 essay, write about…

  1. EITHER Wesley’s internal conflict

  2. OR David’s internal conflict

Whichever character you choose, you need to frame your essay with a controlling idea (or “thesis”) that says something meaningful about the conflict you’ve chosen. Then in the body of the paper, you need to develop and expand on the controlling idea in a way that teaches your reader something NEW about your topic, which they would not have understood if you had not shown it to them. Here are two thesis sentences that do not accomplish this, and which would be likely to lead to unsuccessful essays: “Wesley faces many conflicts.” “Wesley faces a conflict between his obligation to the law and his obligation to his family.” Why wouldn’t these thesis statements work?

The way to avoid this kind of weak thesis is to spend some time digging into your topic so you find some “nuggets of gold” and actually have something to say. An easy way to do this is to ask and attempt to answer a few challenging thought questions about the topic. Here are some that – if you think about them seriously – would probably help you find some nuggets.

  1. What kind of conflicts and how do we know they are there? Remember conflict involves TWO (or more) opposing forces.

  2. Which particular moments in the story best display the conflict, the character’s attempts to deal with it and the outcome? Include page #s and key quotes within the moments.

  3. How does the character attempt to deal with the conflict? Why does his approach succeed or fail? Do his successes and failures result more from the situation or his own character?

  4. How does the conflict – and his attempts to deal with it – affect the character and the people around him? Think about short and long term effects.

  5. What does it all mean? What larger insight into the human condition does this situation lead us to?

  6. Any other questions you come up with that help you dig in to your topic and find nuggets of gold.


  1. Brainstorming. Due Wed, 12/5

    1. Think through the thought questions…). Minimum 1 full page. Sentences, not bullets. Minimum 6 quotations.

    2. Boil your brainstorming down to a central controlling idea. This idea is likely to combine two or three of your brainstorming questions. You will eventually boil this idea down further to a one sentence thesis, but at this point it is fine to express it in 2-3 sentences.

  2. Develop a structure for your essay. What will each paragraph be about (focus)? What subtopics and specific details will go inside each paragraph (development)? How will the paragraphs build up to a main point in the end (flow)? You can do this step as a chart or as an outline. Due Thurs, 12/6

  3. Final essay. Due Tues night, 12/11 on Turnitin.

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