The Rifle Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 23 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Rifle.
This section contains 503 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Rifle Summary & Study Guide Description

The Rifle Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Rifle by Gary Paulsen.

The Rifle is the story of a flintlock rifle that is made just prior to the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania. Through a remarkable series of circumstances, the Rifle makes its way to 1993, where it figures in a tragic accident.

A man named Cornish McManus establishes his own gunsmith shop in 1768. McManus is a visionary and a very skilled gunsmith, and after finding a remarkable piece of maple gun stock, he decides to craft his life achievement, a "sweet" rifle of tremendous quality and accuracy. He spends the next months painstakingly crafting the Rifle. The Rifle is far more accurate than most any gun existing at the time due to McManus' innovation, care, and artistry.

Though McManus does not wish to part with the gun, he meets a woman he marries and he needs money to raise a family. A woodsman named John Byam takes a liking to the Rifle. McManus sells the gun for a year's worth of animal hides from Byam. Byam then gets caught up in the American rebel fight against the British, leading into the American Revolution. Byam becomes a folk hero in the Revolution, with his long-range sniping of British officers becoming the stuff of legend.

Byam dies of dysentery, and the Rifle is handed off to a woman named Sarah. It remains dormant in an attic for many decades until it is discovered. After more changes of ownership, the Rifle is eventually purchased by a "gun nut" named Tim Harrow at a gun show. Harrow in turns trades it to a man named Harv Kline, and the Rifle finally ends up hung above Kline's fireplace.

The story changes directions to describe a fourteen-year-old boy (in 1993) named Richard Mesington. He grew up in Colorado and moved to Missouri when he was seven. His early life is described in some detail, including his career aspirations (construction worker, archaeologist, major-league baseball pitcher), his romance with a girl named Peggy, his love of sports, etc. By 1993, it is clear Richard has great promise and a limitless future.

Fate now intervenes. Richard's family lives next door to the Klines. Christmas comes, and Kline places a couple Christmas candles he got from work onto his mantle. The burning candles melt the wax that had been placed (by Byam) into the hole of the Rifle between the still-live gun powder and the striking plate. As Richard adjusts a Christmas ornament on his tree in his living room, Kline stokes logs in his own living room. Kline trips, sending a shower of sparks into the air from the logs. One of these sparks enters the hole of the Rifle, causing the loaded Rifle to fire. It travels into the window of Richard's home and kills the boy instantly, striking him in the head. No one in all the years of the Rifle's life had bothered to check if it was loaded. The story ends with the Rifle in the gun case of another man named Tilson, seemingly waiting for its next victim.

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This section contains 503 words
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