by Helen Maria Fiske

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson is a novel about Native American life in California during the period of European settlement. The main theme in the book is the tragic injustices that defined the Native American experience at the time. The events in the book are based on real events that happened as the whites invaded Native American territory and suppressed the native people. Jackson’s goal was to expose injustice by telling a compelling story that revealed the Native Americans' anguish and captured their suffering. Her hope was to garner sympathy for the plight of people who lost their lives, loves, and homeland as the Europeans settled the country and took over their land.

One of the themes that emerges in the novel, whether or not Jackson intended it to, is the idea of Native Americans as powerless against the whites. In the novel, the natives are portrayed as peaceful folks who were molded into industrious farm workers by the white missionaries, just as they were molded into servants of the Christian church. Ramona and Allesandro appear almost childlike in their confusion and distress and complacent in their submission to white control. They are angry, but they don’t resist. Instead, they go placidly as they are swept from their villages and robbed of their humanity.

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