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The Rifle is a message novel, a tragedy directed toward making a single point emphatically. In it, Paulsen presents the story of an almost miraculous rifle—a "sweet" rifle that is a near-perfect blend of skill, art, craft, and materials. Its maker lavishes love on his masterpiece. It goes to the Revolutionary War, then it is hidden away, by accident, for most of its life, reappearing for a meeting with a fourteen-year-old boy—an unnecessary meeting that should never have taken place.

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