Essay on Killing Mister Watson

1158 Words Oct 18th, 2010 5 Pages
A compelling, powerful re-creation of the hostile environment that was Florida in the early twentieth century, Peter Matthiessen, the naturalist and explorer, brings much of these elements to his novel Killing Mister Watson. He writes about the natural world and the individuals who must struggle to survive the elements. The main focal point of the novel is Edgar J. Watson, a real historical figure who killed the female outlaw Belle Starr. Killing Mister Watson is told by the people who knew Watson, and the characters speak in their natural dialect. Matthiessen knows how to weave in factual material and has created a wonderful sense of place. The novel is dynamic in the sense that it is more than mere imagination; it is an American …show more content…
In these narrators, Matthiessen has created a cast who, through a series of narrative interviews, provide access points into the complexities of the vibrant character of Mister Watson. Along with those who speak directly, the reader is also introduced to a community of coastal farmers, hunters, and fishermen, and a number of miscellaneous odd figures who make the story more fictionalized by providing a sort of cliché role. These characters range from Jean Chevalier, the eccentric French ornithologist, treasure hunter, and cynic, to Hannah Smith, a "wild woman" who hacks her way clear across the Everglades only to be murdered on Watson's plantation. To an extent, this diverse cast provides a summary of a character that exemplifies parts of the novel's theme and meaning. However, the nature and content of the narrations moves the reader farther away from any sense of certainty as to what events actually took place in the thousand islands of the Everglades. Although these characters a very striking and intriguing in what they offer, one must be careful not to hold one narrator’s story over another’s; this will lead to a misinterpretation of truth. They are more eyes than characters, and the variability of their accounts adds to the complexity of the character of Mr. Watson. Watson was a hard-working, ill-educated, jolly American farmer and entrepreneur who

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