The Jailing of Cecelia Capture Essay - The Jailing of Cecelia Capture

Janet Campbell Hale

The Jailing of Cecelia Capture

Cecelia Capture Welles is a thirty-year-old law student, wife, and mother. She is jailed on a drunk-driving charge the night of her birthday and reflects back on her life in an effort to understand how she arrived at this point.

Cecelia’s childhood on a reservation in Idaho and in various western slum communities was marked by a father who drank, a nagging mother, and indifferent older sisters. A runaway at sixteen, Cecelia secures a job as a waitress, then meets a young soldier about to depart for Vietnam. She becomes pregnant, the man is killed, and Cecelia becomes an unwed mother on welfare. While struggling to eke out a living for her child as she attends college, she meets and marries one of her former instructors. Cecelia remains dissatisfied and unhappy and decides to enroll in a law school in another state, against her husband’s wishes.

After being arrested, Cecelia realizes that she has known many kinds of prison, some worse than the reality of jail. For years, she has tried to live her life by other people’s standards and rules. She realizes that most of her actions have been reactions to those around her, instead of an acting out of her own desires. This realization signifies the beginning of her freedom.

This is the first adult novel written by Janet Campbell Hale, and in it she has skillfully constructed a poignant tale that provides a keen look into the life of a modern Native American woman. In this absorbing character study, Hale demonstrates much promise as a novelist.


Bataille, Gretchen M., and Kathleen M. Sands. American Indian Women: A Guide to Research. New York: Garland, 1991. This standard...

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