Printed in 2000 through Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated, Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo was the first ever historical fiction that focused on the Siege and the Battle of the Alamo. In 2003, though, it was republished by the Penguin Group (Canada) which holds now its latest publication. A 784-page book, the novel is a fiction story narrating the lives of simple people during the Battle of the Alamo that historically happened in San Antonio, Texas on 1835-1836.
With the conflict between the Mexicans and Texans as its backdrop, the novel evolved on the lives of three main characters namely Mary Mott, a widow and an owner of an inn, her 16- year old son named Terrell, and a botanist named Edmund McGowan. Contributing to the story were historical figures Jim Bowie, Antonio Lopez Santa Anna, Colonel David Crockett, and Colonel William Travis. Harrigan opened the novel in 1835 and described Texas in its early way of living.
During which though, there already aroused the conflict between the Mexican government and Texan immigrants which brought a worrying atmosphere to the Texan people. The author described the main characters in a very vivid manner. As a single parent, Mary Mott was a typical mother who was trying to keep a comfortable life for her son Terrell through managing an inn. She became, though, too protective with her son knowing that the current environment and situation on their place may be too dangerous for him.
In addition, Mary Mott got worried at the idea of war knowing that she may lose all of what she had built. The same thing was the main concern of botanist Edmund McGowan. A middle- aged man who has reached his age without having any romantic relationship with a woman, he was hired by the Mexican government to work on a project about Texas’ flora. He perceived the incoming war to be a menace to his project. In the novel, though, he would meet the widow Mary Mott and would get involved with her. He would even help the widow to find her son Terrell who has gone to the battle.
Finally, Terrell, like most adolescents, was an adventure- seeker. Knowing that the war could be the right place for him to find what he was looking for, he took his chance to join the battle. Although the book tackled the conflict between the Mexicans and the Texans, it was still the conflicts of the main characters that Harrigan skillfully focused on. Terrell was in search of his identity and a little escapade. By joining the war, which her mother Mary Mott greatly opposed, was for him the only way to achieve this goal.
Mary Mott’s peaceful life was bothered by the idea of war concerning her people primarily because she thinks war would ruin everything she had put up. Edmund McGowan, on the other hand, shared almost the same sentiments. It was not to be taken granted, however, that the main conflict of the characters can be all rooted up from the Battle of the Alamo. This conflict, though, was finally resolved when the war was over. Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo, on my own point of view, tries to talk not only about wars. I think it also wants to touch the issues of social and self- awareness.
Although the characters had their own problems and concerns, still they are compelled to act in accordance with their society. With this, I would like to recommend the book to everyone. Harrigan has managed to present the story in both perspectives: from the Mexicans’ and Texans’ point of view. The novelist was also successful in weaving the stories of his fictional characters with the stories of historical ones. The novel was a well- combined mixture of Texan legend and an entertaining work of fiction. References Harrigan, S. (2000). The Gates of the Alamo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated