Individual Independence

The major lesson that the Widow Dorsett teaches Trenchmouth was to not ever let others use him for their own means and purposes. She teaches him to stand on his own—without owing anyone anything, being manipulated by anyone, or playing someone else’s game. In his youth, however, Trenchmouth goes against this advice several times. The first is when he practices snake handling at the local church; the preacher uses his skills with the snakes to attract a crowd and build his own fame. The widow discreetly offers Trenchmouth advice about not being “bamboozled,” which motivates him to walk away from the church for good. Then, as Trenchmouth is caught up in the union battles, he is aware that they are using him for his sharpshooting skills—and his involvement eventually leads to great violence and murder. Trenchmouth is so dismayed by how he has been used and the lives he has taken that he flees society for over 20 years. Having independence means that you are constantly true to yourself. Trenchmouth learns this the hard way.

The Impact of Violence

In his youth, Trenchmouth is involved in violent activities, but Taylor does not treat the subject callously. Trenchmouth is appropriately disturbed by his role in harming and killing others. As The Battle of Matewan is occurring, a train of innocent passengers rolls into town; the author places a young female on the train to contrast innocence and goodness with the brutality of what occurs in the shootings. Trenchmouth can’t look at the girl’s reaction to the dead bodies on the street; he knows that it is horrible. Taylor implies, through Trenchmouth’s conscience, that inflicting violence and harm on others results in definite consequences that negatively impact one’s life for years and even decades to come. In addition to guilt of having murdered people, Trenchmouth also has guilt associated with the fact that his best...

(The entire section is 778 words.)