The author Don Berry in his book Moontrap offers a rich history of the plight of mountain men as they are pushed to the edge of their freedom, and left with nowhere else to go. This story is compared to the moonlight on water, which eludes any traps, then fades eternally – like the mountain men whose freedom cannot anymore be returned to them. The book offers opportunity to reflect on how society value and respect the lives of people like the mountain men, and it recalls the sad narrative of their fate. It tells the story of coping and rediscoveries, of how a mountain man would always have that spirit and passion for the wild.
The book recounts the history of the 1800s Northwest, in a rich and compelling narrative. Synopsis (Setting and Plot) The story is set in the year 1850 in the territories of Oregon as it is being taken over by the civilized world. The book Moontrap introduces two characters, John Monday, also known as Jaybird, and Webster W. Webster, or Webb as his acquaintances and friends call him. As with the past writing of Don Berry, the two characters are men from the mountains. The story focuses on the life of Jaybird, who longs to be stable and settle as a farmer. He stakes a claim in a land located across Oregon City, in the town of Willamette.
As he was beginning to adjust to the life as a farmer, as he was starting to think that perhaps he has the chance to live a life that is normal, Webb comes into the picture. Webb like the typical mountain man came along with an old horse, from a life along the edges of society, ignoring and not having a care for the civilized life, enjoying the offers of nature in the mountains. Webb reintroduces Jaybird in a series of adventures, which eventually ushers a rediscovery of his character and true self. As Jaybird has nearly adjusted to his new life as a farmer, he met a common-law wife Mary, a Shoshone Indian, with whom he conceived a child.
When he went to the judge of the town to have the child registered, the judge refused and instead wrote ‘bastard’. This was a clear proof and startling realization how men like the judge who has power and control, and filed with bigotry and disdain, can refuse the life and contentment of people like Jaybird. He then realizes that being a mountain man is something that is eternal; a mountain man would always be a mountain man. The author Don Berry asks the sincere yet poignant question of what is left for mountain men if they have reached the last of the frontiers.
Since Oregon has already fallen into the grasps of civilization, with only the great ocean beyond, what are left for mountain men to do? The freedom that the mountain men enjoyed in their seemingly endless ventures have come to cease, and the civilization would forever crush the hope of attaining such same freedom. This message and reality was compared to how the reflections of the moon cannot be forever kept alive in the water, cannot be trapped, just as freedom can eternally be gone when it finally fades. Reactions and Reflections
The point for reflection for the book is rich and clear. The author vividly recalls the struggles and eventual disappearance of the lives of mountain men, who relishes the life in the wild and in the mountains. But it was a life that would not last as they had been pushed to the edge of their land by the conquerors who invades in the name of civilization. The story is fascinating yet heartbreaking for it is how cultures and passions die and fade. The spirit of the mountain men died, because the waves of civilization have already swept through the last frontier – Oregon.
Based on history, it recalls how the men of the mountains, how the old ways and old traditions has been cast aside as necessarily outcome of adopting the civilized ways. During the mid-1800s, the final vestiges of freedom of the mountain men, which is Oregon, has finally fallen into the hands of the civilized, and the price is clear and non-negotiable. Freedom for the mountain men, who lives at the edge and ignores the confines of the law, is necessary to be forgotten, for the civilized world frowns at their ways. Although the story weaved from the imaginations of the author, it rings true of what occurred in the old America.
It is not only mountain men, but also natives and Indians who have gradually lost the freedom in order to give way to progress. The story recalls the unforgiving people in power whose imposition of civilization comes with bigotry and discrimination. The book is a powerful remembrance of the historical struggles of mountain men who no longer exists as they were slowly eliminated by the dictates of civilization. The history of the American Pacific Northwest is indeed field with richness, and has endless stories to tell.
This is what makes the book interesting, for it provides a fascinating mixture of reflections and historical recollections. The author recounts how the white populations has taken over the land, and put an end to the lives and culture of the natives living in it. Although whether this imposition of civilization is good or bad is arguable, what is definite perhaps is that there were lost spirits as the lands of the Northwest was taken over. And this is indeed true in history. The book teaches the value of being faithful to your history and to where you come from.
Even as Jaybird decides to escape from the life of a mountain man and start anew, his past always confronts him, and he discovers that at the end of the day, the civilization that he chose over his old ways would ultimately be the one to reject him. A mountain man would always be a mountain man. There is no shame in being at home in outside the limits of the civilized world and there is no wrong in relishing nature and the mountains. What is in fact sad is how this life has been forgotten by the society as we have been taken over by the technological advancements that frown on the lives of them mountain men.
The author also gives the constant reminder that once upon a time, there were natives that roamed across the American land, who lived the life that was filled with carefree and freedom. This was a life that was given up, voluntary or otherwise, but deserves to be recalled and remembered. Don Berry constantly reminds us that we must not turn our backs on the people that once was, and he tells the world that the civilization that we are relishing now was not for free, it came at a very high price indeed. Reference Berry, Don. (1973). Moontrap. USA: Ballantine Books.
Courtney from Study Moose
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