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In Montana, the summer of 1948 held a series of tragic events which were to have a permanent and decisive impact on David and his parents. This chain of events were to turn David’s young life and that of his family upside down forever and which was to so angrily lead him out of childhood, destroying his innocence and youthful naivety in the process. However, David’s shocking revelations lead to his painful gaining of wisdom.

When David’s story begins, we learn that his life is a stable and happy one, and his present family are close and loving. It is this very stability though, combined with the respect in which the much loved and admired Frank is held by both the townspeople and David, that make the events which occur suddenly and with increasing speed, so shocking and destructive, particularly for David.  David’s view of life dramatically starts to change through the eavesdropping of his mother and father’s conversation regarding Frank’s behaviour towards the woman on the Indian reservation.

While David must pretend, not just for the remainder of the novel, but for the next forty years, to be ignorant of Frank’s crimes, and therefore of much of what is happening although his parents do not realise that he has overheard their discussions. David’s previous image of Frank along with happy memories therefore were gone, never to return, and within six months of the funeral both him and his family left Bentrock, confirming his earlier, somewhat bitter judgement that “were the ones getting the shitty end of the stick”.

A loss of David’s innocence also appears during his killing of a live magpie. This brings about a an evil in himself also reinforcing the fact that he has killed a living creature in the wild and mentioning that “it can be done in a flick of the finger”. The particular significance about this plays an important part in his morals and sends of thoughts as he considers that he also is capable of committing such unfortunate yet amoral things. “Looking in the dead bird’s eye, I realised that these strange, unthought of connections – sex and death, lust and violence, desire and degradation – are there, there, deep in even a good heart’s chambers.

In the rapid journey which David has been forced to undertake from innocence to experience, to seeing life in a whole, truthful and certainly more painful way, he learns many lessons and gains some important insights, but none more disturbing than that which immediately follows Frank’s suicide. “You see, I knew – I knew! – I knew! That Uncle Frank’s suicide had solved all of our problems … I felt something for my uncle in death that I hadn’t felt for him in life. It was gratitude, yes, but it was something more. It was very close to love”.


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