Ride With Me, Mariah Montana Discussion Points
- At one point in Ride With Me, Mariah Montana, Jick muses, "Everything of life picture-size, neatly edged. Wouldn't that be handy, if but true." In one sense, Doig does tie the lives of his characters to the art of photography. Explore the ocular imagery in the novel, particularly as related to Jick and Mariah. How much of the novel is about learning to readjust your eyes to new light?
- Why is the newspaper business, a vagrant occupation reliant on waves of inspiration, so appealing to Mariah and Riley? Study the articles in the Centennial series and compare/contrast how Mariah with her camera and Riley with his pen respond to the challenge of portraying the West. Why do they steer away from romanticizing the "wistful little town off the beaten path" in their depiction of Montana?
- Jick remarks that the buttes arising from the heart of Montana's earth are "lone sentinel forms the eye seeks." Why does the eye seek them? How do they inform Jick's invisible landscape, and to what extent is the ranch (also a kind of sentinel) a part of Jick's mental dwelling place?
- Doig, through the persona of Riley, flexes his storytelling muscles when describing the Baloney Express. Riley writes, "They have seen the majority of Montana's century, each of these seven men old in everything but their restlessness, and as their carefully strewn line of taillights burns a route into the night their stories ember through the decades." Discuss the significance of the encounter with these colorful old men and how their tales prove to be a turning point in the Centennial series.
- Having read his ancestors' letters with surprise and sorrow, Jick becomes acutely vulnerable. He reflects about Mariah and Riley, "Let history whistle through their ears all it wanted. Mine were ready for a rest." Why does Jick resist reminiscence?
- Compare the scene at the Nez Perce gravesite with the scene at the gravesite where Alex is buried. Which is harder for Jick to bear—the recollection of his own experience at war or his recollection of the "battle" Alec waged with his family?
- At the height of his depression, Jick wryly regrets, "People do end up this way, alone in a mobile home of one sort or another, their remaining self shrunken to fit into a metal box." After an exasperated cry for help to his late wife, where, then, does Jick turn? What events, people and thoughts lead him out of his sense of abandonment and urge him to grasp at life with both vigor and calm resolve?
- In "East of Crazy," Doig describes the wind with subtle imagery. How does the image of the Chinook complement the plot of Mariah and Riley venturing into a questionable second relationship?
- Jick sums up Riley's character as "the king who never forgot anything but never learned anything either". Explain why Mariah is initially willing to overlook Riley's impenetrable hard-headedness and re-enter a marriage with him. Does Doig lead us to side with Mariah in her final decision?
- What effect does Leona's revelation of the events leading to her breakup with Alec have on Jick? Could we attribute his subsequent, even stronger desire for her to the fact that he, too, has felt her "dry sorrow beyond tears," and finds consolation in knowing she can relate to his sense of loss. How does this feeling of loss both include and transcend the loss of Alec?
- In his stories and memoirs, Doig depicts the historic struggle to keep Montana's working ranches alive. Contrast Riley's cynical attitude toward the fate of the Montana ranch with Jick's initial idealism about his own sheep ranch. How does Jick come to terms with the reality of losing what he had worked so hard for?
- As he did in English Creek, Doig incorporates a dancing scene and a moving speech at the end of Ride With Me, Mariah Montana to frame the emotional development of his characters, Jick and Mariah. Discuss how the style of writing in these passages elevates the reader's attitude toward Jick as father and as rancher and Mariah as daughter and photographer.
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