Bandit's Moon Discussion Guide
This adventurous story takes place amidst the California Gold Rush. When we first meet Annyrose, a young orphaned girl, she is staying with a greedy old woman, O. O. Mary. The old woman has cut off Annyrose's hair and sold it, along with her clothes to pay for her upkeep. In the old clothes that O. O. Mary gives to her, Annyrose looks just like a young boy. She gets her chance to escape from the odious O. O. Mary, when the legendary Mexican bandit, Joaquin Murieta, arrives.
Annyrose agrees to teach Joaquin to read in return for letting her travel with him. She still hopes to find her brother, the only family she has left. Although Annyrose thinks that the bandit is wrong to go on stealing, she finds that he is rarely anything but kind to her. As time goes on, she also learns about the terrible injustices that were done to the Mexicans by greedy Yankees, and comes to understand something about Joaquin's bitterness and the reasons for his terrible vengeance. Indeed, Annyrose and Joaquin develop a true friendship, which helps them both survive.
A major theme in this adventurous story is that prejudice and injustice breed acts of vengeance. Knowing how brutally he and his family had been treated, do you believe that Joaquin is justified in stealing gold from men who were mining on land that had once been his? Do you think that robbing coaches could be justified at all? Why do you think that Joaquin does not change his ways once the unjust laws are changed?
One conflict that recurs throughout the story is Annyrose's divided loyalty. While she is grateful to Joaquin for taking care of her, she still believes she should somehow warn others he might be dangerous. She thinks that her mother would have turned him in. When Annyrose believes that Joaquin has killed her brother, she takes decisive action and tells the sheriff where to find the bandit. Later, when she learns that her brother is still alive, Annyrose apologizes to Joaquin and gets a sign of forgiveness. If she had continued to travel with Joaquin, do you think that Annyrose would have stopped feeling so torn about what she should do?
The setting for the story is 19th Century California. Mexicans lived in California long before "Yankees" became interested in its gold. Annyrose travels with Joaquin to small towns, mining flats, and a Mexican encampment. How does the author make California come alive for you?
Joaquin is perhaps the most complicated character in the story. Although he is known to be a terrible, dangerous bandit, Joaquin shows a great deal of tenderness toward Annyrose. As Pio Pio tells Annyrose, Joaquin was an innocent until Yankees hanged his brother, stole his claim, and possibly even killed his wife. Why do you think that Joaquin has friends throughout California, who hide and protect him, when they could turn him in and collect a large reward? Do you think that Joaquin did all of the terrible things he is accused of?
- Annyrose learns that Three-Fingered Jack lost his finger in the war on the Texas border. She realizes that her father could have shot off the finger, or worse, that Three-Fingered Jack could have been the man who shot her father. Why do you think that Annyrose does not feel hatred toward the Mexicans, who her father fought in the war?
- Annyrose lets Joaquin and his men believe that she is a boy when she starts to travel with them. She only changes into a dress when she believes that she is going to travel on her own. When he realizes that she's a girl, Joaquin seems more amused than angry about her deception. Why do you think Annyrose let everyone believe she was a boy for so long?
- O. O. Mary calls Mexicans "greasers." The Mexicans call the Yankees "gringos." Do you think that this kind of name-calling continues today? Does this sort of name-calling make it hard to see individuals for who they are?
- When Annyrose meets him, Joaquin is at large, despite large rewards for his capture. Why does Joaquin believes that reading will help him survive? Does his new-found reading skill pay off?
- At one point, Joaquin is compared to Robin Hood. How is he like the legendary hero? How is he different?
- At the end of the story, Annyrose believes that Joaquin has been killed by a posse. She bravely goes to see Joaquin's head, which is exhibited to the public. What do you think she feels when she realizes that it is not Joaquin's head?