Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Set in 1857, Broken Lance follows Angus and Callie McCracken, emigres to the United States who have converted to the Mormon faith, as they trek west to join other Mormons in Salt Lake City. The novel opens with the McCracken family—Angus, Callie, and their three children—along with other individuals encountering a group of Cheyenne Indians who are attacking their wagon party. While Callie and her children remain hidden, Angus and the other men attempt to fight off the Indians. In the process, Angus is killed. In the meantime, Callie and her children have hidden in a secret compartment in the wagon, safe from harm. Once the Indians have left, Callie emerges to discover her husband’s body. Determined that her children not see her bury their father, she demands that they stay in the wagon. Callie must then determine how she and her children, stranded in Wyoming, are to make their way to the closest fort, which is Fort Bridger.
Thus, Callie and her children, along with what small provisions they have, trek through the wilderness of Wyoming. At first, she is alone in protecting her children and making sure they have enough food. However, at one point, Callie comes across a wounded Indian. When she sees him, “Callie’s first impulse was victorious revenge. Something sweetly exuberant rose inside of her at the sight of a red savage devastated and defenseless.” Even though this particular Indian has done no harm to her, she still feels hatred toward him. Since her husband was killed by Indians, she views all Indians negatively. When Jamie, her oldest son, asks her what she is going to do with him, she answers, “’Turn him over to the authorities, as soon as we find some. He’s a brutal murderer.’” Callie, though, does not know that the Indian is a murderer; she is making an assumption based on what happened to her husband.
When the Indian wakes up, Callie learns that his name is Three Elk. At first, their interaction does not encourage Callie to change her views on him. She becomes angry when she realizes, “That...
(The entire section is 841 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Sources for Further Study
Anderson, Lavina F., and Maureen U. Beecher, eds. Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987. This group of essays, dealing with issues of women and Mormonism within a historical framework, sets the novel in perspective.
Davies, Douglas J. An Introduction to Mormonism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003. A guide and overview of Mormonism, which includes its historical and theological development over the years.
Hudak, Melissa. Review of Broken Lance. Library Journal 122, no. 14 (September 1, 1997). Brief, positive review of the novel which “highly recommends” it.
Shipps, Jan. “Difference and Otherness: Mormonism and the American Religious Mainstream.” In Minority Faiths and the American Protestant Mainstream, edited by Jonathan D. Sarna. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. Discusses early Mormonism in the United States and how it is separate from other mainstream faiths.