The Big Sky

A review of the historical novel “The Big Sky” by A. B. Guthrie, Jr..

This paper analyzes the novel “The Big Sky” by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. about frontier life. It examines how based on his extensive research, he uses the vernacular of the mountain man, realistically depicting the rugged and dangerous life and the character flaws of the outdoorsmen. It looks at how the author portrays the adventures and exploits in a journey that takes Boone Caudill from his Kentucky farm life to the frontier country of the Blackfoot Nation in the Rocky Mountain headwaters of the Missouri River and discusses how lack of forethought ultimately led to the destruction of the very lifestyle that the mountain men had sought. As they reaped their rewards, the hunters believed that the herds of buffalo were so vast that they could never make a dent in their numbers, but even the buffalo disappeared, as did the mountain men. The disappearance of the mountain men led writers to romanticize the lifestyle, Guthrie sets the historical record straight, and he does it in a vast pristine landscape stretching endlessly under “The Big Sky”.
“The incident where Caudill and Deakins leave the road to circumvent the road’s toll takers can be seen as a metaphor for avoiding paying ones way through life. However, leaving the comfort of the road and encroaching on the bumpy pristine land will eventually cause devastation to occur on either side. The road through life is neither straight nor smooth, and along the way, conscience and society extract payment from each traveler. Some find a way to use influence and privilege to ease their path, and others try to deviate through loopholes in order to avoid paying the price. According to Thomas W. Ford in A. B. Guthrie Jr., the ultimate price paid by the mountain men was the destruction of their lifestyle when indiscriminate and shortsighted hunting wiped out the beaver and buffalo populations (67).”