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The 1960's saw the rise of the feminist movement and the demand of equal rights for women. Suddenly women were faced with an array of new possibilities outside the traditional role of housewife and mother. Many women left the home to take jobs, get educations, and fulfill other dreams; and Jackie's mother was one of those. But the liberation of women from the traditional role of wife and mother meant harm to the traditional family unit, and sometimes that harm could be quite enormous. While many women decided that a wife and mother could also have a job, get an education, etc., others decided that the family was too much of a burden for them.
It was Jack Russell who was forced to make the decision for his wife; she was no longer part of the family. While she could not bring herself to make the final break and live her life as she always wanted, her husband forced her to do so. Perhaps she never really wanted to leave her family, perhaps what she really wanted was for her family to leave Great Falls and become more adventurous. Perhaps she wanted to experience new and exciting things with her husband and child and that was why she was torn between her own desire for a less domestic life and her connection to that very life. After all, Jackie's mother had married his father when he was in the Air Force and traveled extensively. She had no idea that her husband would be content to settle down in a small town and be content with a traditional, but boring, life. He did not consult her when he chose to remain in Montana. She had wanted to return to Tacoma, but was denied by her husband and forced to live in a place she did not want to live. She had married an adventurous young man who turned into just another boring "small-towner." Is it any wonder that she would seek comfort in another adventurous young man?
The greatest impact of the incident had to have been on Jackie, and therefore his is the most tragic story of all. Jackie Russell was a teen who was forced to grow up in a single night. When he left that evening with his father to go hunting, he had no idea that his entire life would be changed by the time he had gotten home. When he left he had a happy family, when he returned his family was destroyed. His world suddenly was turned up side down by forces that he could not possible understand. At an age where such things should not be a concern, Jackie was forced to partake in the destruction of his parent's marriage. A child like Jackie needed stability in his life, the routine that his father had created was much like a warm security blanket which insulated his life from the pain of the outside world. When his father confronted his mother, that security blanket was taken away forever and Jackie was at the mercy of the harsh world. But the most tragic aspect of Jackie's situation was the guilt that often accompanies divorce. Jackie would inevitably feel guilty for his mother's leaving, as though it were somehow his fault. He would have to adjust to the absence of his mother and build an entirely new relationship with his father, a relationship that would be all too short. But most of all, Jackie would forever never again feel the comfort and security that was taken away from him that night.
Since the 1960's, divorce has become a commonplace as the majority of marriages in the United States do not last. Single-parent households are now part of American society, and American society has adjusted to the new circumstances. Sadly, Great Falls is the story of millions of American children who have been forced to live through the breakup of their parent's marriage. The change in American society in the years after the Second World War have culminated in a society where individual rights have become more important than loyalty to family. While the problems associated with parents staying in bad marriages seem to have been alleviated through American society's acceptance of divorce, this had created a whole new set of problems that can have very tragic consequences.
Kittredge, William, and Allen Morris Jones. The Best of Montana's Short Fiction.
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