by Helen Maria Fiske

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Helen Maria Fiske's Ramona tells the story of Ramona, half Indian and half Scottish, and Alessandro, an Indian man with whom she falls in love. The book tells their love story set against the backdrop of 1800s California where culture is just developing and the Americans are encouraged to take land and, symbolically, livelihoods from the Indians who are settled there. A significant quote that explains how this felt can be found on in chapter 2:

The people of the United States have never in the least realized that the taking possession of California was not only a conquering of Mexico, but a conquering of California as well; that the real bitterness of the surrender was not so much to the empire which gave up the country, as to the country itself which was given up. Provinces passed back and forth in that way, helpless in the hands of great powers, have all the ignominy and humiliation of defeat, with none of the dignities or compensations of the transaction.

There are various quotes throughout the book that address the way that Americans thought about and treated Indians.

Americans would not let an Indian do anything but plough and sow and herd cattle. A man need not read and write, to do that. (ch. 5)

Naked savages they themselves too, to-day, if we had not come here to teach and civilize them. (ch. 8)

Ramona herself is considered even less desirable because she's both Indian and Scottish, which is looked down upon in chapter 5:

She did not wish any dealings with such alien and mongrel blood, "If the child were pure Indian, I would like it better," she said. "I like not these crosses. It is the worst, and not the best of each, that remains."

Ramona and Alessandro's love story is apparent throughout the book.

Seeing that the expression of anxious distress did not grow less on Ramona's face, he continued, in a tone still more earnest, “Will not the Senorita trust me to bring him safe down?”

Ramona smiled faintly through her tears. “Yes,” she said, “I will trust you. You are Alessandro, are you not?”

“Yes, Senorita,” he answered, greatly surprised, “I am Alessandro.” (ch. 5)

There was the whole world; if she loved him like this, nothing could make them wretched; his love would be enough for her, - and for him hers was an empire. (ch. 5)

Fiske paints a beautiful picture of the countryside of California.

Gazing around, looking up at the lofty pinnacles above, which seemed to pierce the sky, looking down upon the world,--it seemed the whole world, so limitless it stretched away at her feet,--feeling that infinite unspeakable sense of nearness to Heaven, remoteness from earth which comes only on mountain heights, she drew in a long breath of delight, and cried: "At last! at last, Alessandro! Here we are safe! This is freedom! This is joy! (ch. 13)

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