(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Ramona is an evocation of Indian and Spanish life in early California. In the first half of the novel, Ramona, who is half Indian, half Scot and who has been reared by a Spanish matriarch, falls in love with Alessandro, son of a mission Indian. After a series of complications in the plot, the lovers triumph and, in the middle of the book, elope. Helen Hunt Jackson sets the common motives of greed, love, and pride in the context of differing ethnic backgrounds, treating the Spanish and Indian cultures with sympathy. For many readers, the appeal of the story lies in its first half, the romance.

In the second half, however, Ramona and Alessandro undergo a series of losses. They lose their land and their dignity, their difficulties leading finally to destruction. These losses occur because U.S. government policy encourages the American settlers to seize land from the Indians, and each removal from the land takes Ramona and Alessandro further from their cultural roots and from their natural sources of sustenance. As a result of these losses, they change from people with a rich cultural heritage and satisfactory material prospects to people with nothing. In this second part, Jackson presents her theme that government policy has systematically dispossessed the Native American tribes.

Two other characters round out Jackson’s picture of conflicting cultures: Señora Moreno, the Spanish matriarch, is a strong character. Aunt Ri, one of the...

(The entire section is 440 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Jackson, Helen Hunt. A Century of Dishonor. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

Mathes, Valerie Sherer. Helen Hunt Jackson and Her Indian Reform Legacy. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.

O’Dell, Ruth. Helen Hunt Jackson. East Norwalk, Conn.: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1939.