Read The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister Gary Scharnhorst Online


In the untamed West, pioneers came to test their fortunes -- and their wills. The Wyoming territory was a harsh, unforgiving land, with its own unwritten code of honor by which men lived and died. Into this rough landscape rides the Virginian, a solitary man whose unbending will is his only guide through life. The Virginian's unwavering beliefs in right and wrong are soonIn the untamed West, pioneers came to test their fortunes -- and their wills. The Wyoming territory was a harsh, unforgiving land, with its own unwritten code of honor by which men lived and died. Into this rough landscape rides the Virginian, a solitary man whose unbending will is his only guide through life. The Virginian's unwavering beliefs in right and wrong are soon tested as he tries to prove his love for a woman who cannot accept his sense of justice; at the same time, a betrayal by his most trusted friend forces him to fight against the corruption that rules the land. Still as exciting and meaningful as it was when first published one hundred years ago, Owen Wister's epic tale of a man caught between his love for a woman and his quest for justice exemplifies one of the most significant and enduring themes in all of American literature. With remarkable character depth and vivid passages, The Virginian stands not only as the first great novel of American Western literature, but as a testament to the eternal struggle between good and evil in humanity. With an engaging new introduction by Gary Scharnhorst, professor of English at the University of New Mexico, this volume is an indispensable addition to the library of American Western literature....

Title : The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780743238021
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains Reviews

  • Henry Avila
    2019-02-10 23:54

    This novel , The Virginian, the first real western book published, in 1902, began the genre , as a popular art form in America, the wild cowboy and the schoolmarm, cattle rustling, the lynchings, Indian attacks, an explosive card game, the deadly shoot out between the good guy, and the villain in the streets of a little, isolated, dusty town in the lawless, mostly empty , Wyoming territory of the 1880's, when cattle was king and vast cowherds roamed free on government lands, without any fences . The devastating blizzard of 1887, ( The Big Die-Up ) when millions of animals froze , destroyed that way of life forever, both for the cowboys and cattle barons , an inevitable, slow vanishing of the myth occurred...until... The anonymous narrator, a college graduate, leaves the train in Medicine Bow , Wyoming, a wealthy man from a prominent family in the civilized East, (similar to the author Owen Wister, who lived in 1885 in that territory, with a modern malady, the jitters) he needs to escape and breathe the clean, fresh air, see the beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes , green pastures, the big , blue skies, above, but mostly by getting his hands, dirty, ride a horse many distant miles, towards the horizon, sleep on the cold ground , sometimes in tents, make his body hard and lean, become like a cowboy, by working as one, the tenderfoot at the beginning is made fun of, by the others, but that does not last, quickly earning their respect... He had met a dynamic, tall man, the first day, on the frontier, in town, the Virginian, ( waiting for the easterner) nobody called him anything else, or knew any other name, and took the newcomer to the ranch, in Sunk Creek, as a guest of the judge, 263 miles away, a young southerner, with unusual skills, the best cowboy around, who spoke little, but through his abilities, working for Judge Henry, at his large estate. He gained a reputation as a man not to be ridiculed, but one person was not so deferential, the surly Trampas, a long feud of many years commenced, and ends, as all knew it would . A more pleasant situation was Molly Stark Wood, from Bennington, Vermont, who left that settled , law abiding state, to go out west and teach children, who needed education there, her family loss money after the mills closed. Molly is soon to discover that this land is not Vermont, seeing the Virginian, she is attracted and repelled at the same time, a fascinating, handsome, but frightening figure... should she go back East and marry a dull, but civilized man that had made numerous proposals? A book that will entertain, the last few chapters are very exciting and quite romantic, surprisingly a very adult narrative, a must read for those interested in the Western and yet will also be enjoyed by others...

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-02-14 23:44

    I cannot believe that I sat in American Lit reading Hawthorne when I could have been reading this. If you have never heard of this book, then I am not sure why; just as I am not sure why I had never heard of it. It is surely Romantic, and sometimes Heroic, but there is a depth of emotion, wit, and thought in this work which made me question how American it could be.Of course, the author spent some schooling-time in Europe, and holds a dear enough place for Austen and Shakespeare not to descend into the self-important drear which has so long left American Literature moth-eaten.However, it has also the rawness and adventure which we have been lead to expect from this frontier land. Both the dime-stores and megaplexes have profited so much from this sense of adventure that red-plumed explosions have become ho-hum. There is then a certain irony in the fact that in opening this book, I was shocked and surprised by its emotion more than I have been by an exploding car or knife-weilding killer. Perhaps that says something in and of itself about the repetetive nature of our arts: that we will make something uninteresting two times instead of something interesting once.I could not resist the gentle humor nor the deep-felt influence of both the high British and the Russian realists in this book, and found it surprised me not in the least because it took a road other than either the expected or the contrary.Though the author sometimes falls to that most grievous of sins: telling instead of showing, one gets the impression that this is because he knows his limits and would spare us the blunder of exceeding them. One also sometimes gets the sense of his desire to fondly remember this era, and to Romanticize it, but if that was ever a crime of Literature, it was only laid upon those we didn't like. I like The Virginian, and not the least of which because the author is humble enough to excuse himself from his crimes before making me do it for him. Too many modern books are started by the authors but finished by the readers.

  • Hannah
    2019-01-22 03:04

    The western genre isn't one that I'm very familiar with, having read (in my impressionable early teens) some of my uncle's Tabor Evans Longarm series paperbacks. And let me just say for the record that the only thing the main character Longarm wasn't riding was a horse....Consequently, my only reading forays into western literature haven't been along the lines of Zane Gray's Riders of the Purple Sage so much as Evans' "Rider of the Purple-Nippled Wench" (my title, not his). As a result, I've been leary in the last 30+ years of picking up another saga of the 'ole west for fear it would be just another excuse for a horny lawman to bed as many busty saloon girls, indian squaws, and lusty train conductor's wives as possible within 200 pages.So when I read a review of The Virginian from my GR friend Misfit, it whetted my interest to give westerns another try, and I'm glad I did.Reading The Virginian reminded me very much of reading Mary Stewart's, Thornyhold - not in content, storyline or even writing style but in the fact that both writers invited their readers to immerse themselves in celebrating a time now vanished, but fondly remembered and richly recreated on the printed page. The Virginian isn't so much about a larger-then-life cowboy/hero as it is a love story about a place and time now enshrined in the American psyche: the wild west.Wister's 110 year old prose was, in the beginning, often difficult for me to decipher and it was hard for me to get through the first 70 pages. However, after I found Wister's cadence, the story took off, and transported me to 1880's Wyoming, and the story of the unnamed Virginian, his rough and ready philosophy of life, and his on-going courtship of the gently-bred, eastern school marm, Molly Stark Wood. Wister presents the Virginian as the archetypal western ideal, and what an ideal this man is. By the book's end, I was more then a little in love with the Virginian myself :DPresented as a series of vignettes, the stories of the Virginian and his exploits are classic western fare, complete with cattle rustlers, poker games, lynchings and the all-important high-noon gunfight. Interspersed between these darker events are chapters of levity, including an over-nurturing hen named Em'ly, a tall-tale to end all tall-tales featuring the booming frog ("frawg") leg industry and a case of mass baby swapping during a local barn dance.This is a richly described and lovingly rendered story of the American west, and is considered the godfather of the western novel. It also comes highly recommended by one who was hesitant about sampling another western ever again.

  • Mike (the Paladin)
    2019-01-24 22:48

    I have been meaning to get to this book for years, literally. It's one of the novels I'm sure my dad read and he wasn't really a reader, at least not when I knew him.I'm sure that some of you will like this book far better than I do. I think that it's an exceptionally well written novel. The prose is at times almost musical, "in it's way". There are two things that caused me to have a struggle with my interest now and then.First this novel is predominantly a romance. It is indeed a western with a very clear view of life in the west and this one is far closer to the way things were than a lot of our more modern western novels. Still, I'm not really a fan of romance with it's required angst and drama. The colliding social systems of New England and the West are on display here as the female protagonist ("the schoolmarm" Molly Stark Wood, or Molly Wood.)falls in love with The Virginian, a true western man of his time. The other problem I had to overcome was the style of writing. Don't get me wrong, the book is beautifully written. It was written in 1901 (some places say 1902 but that appears to be the publication date). We open meeting the narrator who's later called "The Tenderfoot". After the basis of this relationship is established and of course we meet Trampas and set up that conflict the book progresses into the day to day life of the Virginian. It begins to revolve around the romance with the differences and conflicts in the west and the east. The style of writing in that era was much more wordy and florid. I at times found my interest wandering off and really completely lost interest in the book. It of course picks up and we get to the final climax. Try it yourself. The book is still in print after a 100 years. Must mean something.(view spoiler)[ I didn't mention this above but there is a central event in the book that shapes the story and wears on the Virginian throughout the story. Because of the "state of" what passed for law enforcement the people often had to take the law into their hands. The Virginian is "forced" to be involved in the hanging of an old friend who's taken to rustling. Steve admits his crime and goes to his death bravely accepting his fate for the crimes he'd committed. This weighs on the Virginian and Molly and shapes the story a great deal.(hide spoiler)]

  • Misfit
    2019-02-08 06:46

    The Virginian, Oh What a Man! Wow, this was so good; I could not put it down. The Virginian is the most incredible, honest, honorable, handsome (sigh) hero to come along the pike in a long long time. And what a scamp, LOL at his plot to switch the babies (clothes and all) around, so that the parents took home the wrong kids, had to come back to the Judge's ranch, leaving Molly the new teacher alone for him to call on! Lots of love, laughter and excitement as the Virginian falls for the new teacher from the East, rounds up cattle rustlers and vanquishes the bad guys. The author's prose was glorious, although rather dense (for lack of a better word); it reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne. You really have to pay attention and don't let your mind wander or you will end up backtracking so you don't miss any of the story. The author's descriptions of the Wyoming countryside, and most especially the Tetons, were wonderful and I felt like I was right there. Truly one of the best yarns I have ever read, with a nail biting finish during the final showdown with the bad guy, as Molly has to reconcile herself as to what is more important, her east coast sense of righteousness or her love for her man. Highly recommended.

  • Deanne
    2019-02-10 00:41

    I don't often read westerns, but this is a classic. The virginian is your typical cowboy in the white stetson, he's even nice to his horse.There's the usual characters, the baddie, the innocent dupe and the tenderfoot who is also the narrator.Plus it adds another state to the trip around the USA.

  • Tony
    2019-02-13 06:08

    THE VIRGINIAN. (1902). Owen Wister. ****. This was another book on my pile of “guilt” novels – one of those classics that I kept meaning to read but never got around to doing so. I finally did. It was well worth it in a sad0-masochistic way. What you have here is the grand-daddy of all cowboy novels. It was the inspiration for all succeeding novels, plays, movies and TV shows that came after that featured cowboys of the Old West. It was immensely popular at the time, going through fifteen printings in its first eight months after initial publication. It went on to become a successful adaptation as a play – playing four months in New York and eight years on the road. All of those “cliches” we now associate with westerns seem to have originated in this novel. You have to remember when you are reading this book that you are reading them for the first time in print, including the famous, “When you call me that, SMILE!” Owen Wister (1860-1938) tried his hand at lots of things before finally settling down to writing. He was counseled to do so by his friend William Dean Howells. His early efforts were proof-read by another friend, Theodore Roosevelt. He may have gotten some help along the way from his grandmother, Frances (Fanny) Kemble Butler. If he did fail in his writing, he always had his law degree from Harvard to fall back on. The story line in “The Virginian” was sort of based on Wister’s experiences in Wyoming. At the time of his visit there, the true Old West was long gone, but the ghost of its days still remained in the character of its people and the stories that were passed around. The attraction of the Old West was still high for the people who lived Back East who had never gone much further west than the Ohio River. Wister’s tale hit a chord that managed to reverberate among readers and to spark a desire for much more of the same. A lot of the novel will seem old hat to current readers, but it’s worth the effort. Remember that you are now reading the Founding Father of the western. Recommended.

  • Elizabeth K.
    2019-01-28 03:42

    This surprised me with how awesome it was, and the whole reason I picked it up in the first place is because Nancy had to explain to me a weird Owen Wister reference in The Art of Fielding.The first piece of news is that this does not take place in Virginia. (I NEVER SAW THE MOVIES!) It takes place in Wyoming. Considered by some to be the first Western (or so the internet tells me), this is a series of related stories about the Virginian of the title, who is apparently so impressively manly that the narrator never mentions his name, he is always "the Virginian" doing this or that, or saying whatever. The manly stuff he does involves being a cowboy, catching cattle thieves, and courting the local school marm in a very romantic fashion (and sweet, making allowances for the culture of whenever this takes place, which I think is about 1880).Obviously some of it is a little dated, but it doesn't take away from the story. A little more challenging is that it jumps right in with a lot of dialogue written out in, I guess, "cowpoke dialect" and it is a little grating to keep having to parse that out, but it's used to set the scene initially and then in following episodes, isn't so front and center.

  • Jim
    2019-02-20 22:50

    I only saw ebook editions of this, although I have an old hardback at home & downloaded the audio book from the library. I read this as a teen, maybe 40 years ago & liked it a lot better. I have a feeling I skimmed through a lot of the first part. Listening to it just got to be a drag.It's told in a rather odd way by a guy that knows the Virginian, a third person limited, but then it slips into third person omniscient in other places. That didn't harm the story at all, though. It was also well read.What really got to me is that it just dragged on with the romance & I didn't find the dance of any real interest. The subtle word play in the conversations didn't delight me, either.As I recall, the story does get better, but it's just not doing it for me in this format, so after several hours, I'm moving on to another book.

  • Jeff
    2019-02-18 05:52

    Written in 1902, The Virginian is the original western novel from which we get many of the cowboy stereotypes and famous lines that would become staples, such as "Smile when you call me that." and "I'll give you till sundown to leave town."I enjoyed it almost as much as Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage, with which it has a lot in common, namely a hero, his love interest, a villain and cattle rustling.

  • Hannah
    2019-02-20 03:55

    It's a shame to have a book on my favorites shelf and never get around to reviewing it. This book is credited with being the first true Western written... The tale of the Virginian and how he made good in the West. He was from Virginia, hence the nickname (in a land where men were often known more by their handle than their Christian name)—only once, near the end, do we hear what that name is. Then there is the matter of the Eastern lady schoolteacher who comes out with high ideals of bringing civilization to the ranges and is in for some rude surprises.In many ways this is one of the greatest romances ever written. Even the villain of the piece has some sympathy early on, before he turns totally to evil; also, there is the young fellow who the Virginian once rode with who begins to think the way of evil more easy than the way of hard work; we see the Virginian pleading with him to reconsider his path, then grieving for him as his choices overwhelm him. Add to that the heroine, who must sort through what good and evil actually are when they're beyond the reach of police and courts. The story is deeply layered and masterfully plotted.There's humor, of my favorite scenes is the baby-swapping: I laughed aloud at that one!

  • Ernie
    2019-02-13 04:55

    To think that the western movies, TV shows, space westerns, etc. were merely the shadows of this book, published in 1902. The impetus to read this book came from listening to Teddy Roosevelt's biography. The west made a big impression on TR and this book and Owen Wister were largely responsible for his, and our, romantic images. Lots has been written on this. Gun fights. High Noon. Dramatic and memorable music. Moral dilemmas did not exist within the code of the west. Good was clear, simple and triumphant. Evil was also clearly delineated, diabolically, talented and doomed. It also helped that the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. To this day I take time warming up to "cowboys" in black hats. I won't comment further on these well known points. But there were two aspects of the books that surprised me. The "westerns" and the romance that I grew up with had explicit action. First....... In this book... the parent of all "westerns", much of the action takes place off the pages. The Indian attack on the Virginian is described only in the aftermath, when Molly finds him wounded and near death. Furthermore, the gunfight at the end of the book is missed if you don't read two sentences carefully. This is a profound difference from the drama attending western duels on TV and movies. Here, violence and sex take place off the pages. Further to this point, this book is about the land more than the people and their actions: "No hand but nature's had sown these crops of yellow flowers, these willow thickets and tall cottonwoods. Somewere in the passage of red rocks the last sign of wagon wheels was lost, and after this the trail becaem a wild mountain trail. But it was still the warm air of the plains, bearing the sage-brush odor and not the pine, that they breathed; nor did the forest yet cloak the shapes of the tawny hills among which they were ascending." In this fashion, much of the text is devoted to description of places... and when describing people, the author conveys the same sense of timelessness, nature and inevitability.People merely inhabit this country. They are a product of this country. We see occasional visitors from the east who may or may not be able to adapt. Even those who are there are one mistake away from disaster (Shorty). It is a beautiful but unforgiving place. The country defines the people.Second.... since this book marks the inception of the "western" and code of the west.. what went before. So much of popular literature since has been on this subject or used these themes... what preceded the cowboy and the west to capture and stimulate our imaginations? Was it the Civil War? The War of Southern Rebellion? Were our heros in the last half of the 19th century brave but regional partisans of that war? In that case, did Wister do a great service by drawing our attention away from the myths and tradgedies of that war war as a source of our national identity and projecting it onto new myths and ideals of the west and the cowboy?FASCINATING

  • Kimberly Barlow Cook
    2019-01-28 23:00

    A friend told me, before I read this book, that it was one of the most romantic books she had ever read. What did she mean by romantic, I wondered? Was it the Regency swash-buckling, bodice-ripping type, or something more meaningful? My friend was correct. This was, perhaps, the ultimate romantic novel. It skillfully weaves a story of the Adam and Eve type, where man yearns for what he lacks and finds it in the woman who completes him. Having been married for 25 years myself, I have learned and come to appreciate the differences between a man and a woman. Watching Miss Wood discover this for herself, as she learns the soul of her Wyoming cowboy suitor, reveals the strength of Adam as created by God. While she doesn't understand his wild ways and his stalwart attention to duty, responsibility, and enforcing justice, she comes to accept her rough cowboy as he is, and does not try to remake him into some female version of what she feels he should be. Likewise, the Virginian discovers the joy of finding another person to whom he can express the feelings and thoughts he had locked deep inside himself. The reader discovers, through the Virginian's act of baring his most private thoughts and sharing them with his chosen mate, that this is the most intimate act of marriage. Likewise, Miss Wood's trusting in the goodness of her cowboy's nature, even when she does not understand his reasons, models the strength of the Christian marriage: one does not trust the person so much as one trusts the strength of God in a person's life, which creates a trust circumstances cannot affect. There is no need to share the intimate details of this couple's physical relationship to make this a romantic tale--this is done through the development of their trust and understanding of one another. Romance writers would do well to follow this model, which subtly leads the reader through the development of the most intimate part of a relationship--the development of understanding, trust, and appreciation between two opposing natures.On another level, I appreciated the writer's ability to paint setting and characters through a minimal use of words. The writer is a master of "show don't tell," which I find gratifying, since it gives me the pleasure of feeling I have been led gently down the path of reaching my own insightful conclusions. I enjoy encountering a writer or friend who makes me feel, as I correctly draw my conclusions from the hints provided, that we understand one another while others in the room may not.

  • Bill Rogers
    2019-02-05 02:56

    A funny thing happened while I was reading The Virginian. The book was nothing but cliches, and yet it seemed fresh and alive. This surprised me. How was that possible?Then it hit me. Wister invented the cliches. This is where the cliches of the Western came from. Every dusty Western town and literary cattle drive since has borrowed something from this book.Yet Wister's Old West isn't the Old West of later books. The narrator of the story is an Easterner who goes west on various trips over a period of years, arriving by railroad. How often have you seen that connection between East Coast and Frontier in Western novels and movies? (I can only think of one example, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also a great classic, perhaps not coincidentally.) The narrator steps between the two worlds because Wister did that. The narrator mentions seeing things you wouldn't think of-- a young man heading off on a ride across the desert buying canned peaches so he could drink the sweet juice and enjoy a treat along the way, the dump of rusting junk at the edge of each town-- because Wister saw these things. Wister was actually there.An easy read, and recommended because of its historical interest, both as an insight into what the Old West was like, and into the origins of one of our enduring literary genres.

  • James
    2019-02-20 01:49

    The Virginian was the inspiration for The Shopkeeper. The inspiration didn't come from the main character of the novel, but from the life of Owen Wister, the author of this classic. Originally published in 1902, Wister visited the Old West in the late nineteenth century and wrote from personal experience. Although the Virginian can be a somewhat difficult read today, I liked it because Wister wrote from the personal experiences he recorded in his journal. I've never seen the journal, but I've read editor's excerpts that refer to incidents in the book, like the baby-swapping episode. I also read that his editors made him revise the final gunfight because it might offend the squeamish. Too bad. For someone reared on Louis L'Amour, the ending comes across as anticlimactic. Most people are unaware that The Virginian was a runaway bestseller in its day. The book not only set the parameters for the Western genre, it's still considered a literary work that shows that tales of the Old West can be art. If you'd like a great companion book, try mark Twain's Roughing It. If you want to get a feel for the comraderiship and ethos of the Old West, these books will not disappoint you.

  • Donna
    2019-02-11 05:00

    Written in 1902, "The Virginian" is considered the first Western. It has also been voted among the best. It is a true Western with all of the cowboy stories and a fair share of muted violence, but it is also a textbook Romance with a school teacher from Vermont as the object of the Virginian's affections.The book is quite well written and the description of the landscapes is magnificent. The pacing can seem quite slow at times, but all episodes lead up to the ending. I listened to the first 75% of the story on audio and read the last 25% therefore I was not bothered by the variant spellings which try to mimic the Virginian's speech.I never intentionally read a Western and I'm glad I chose this one which had all of the hallmarks of the genre.

  • Ron
    2019-02-21 00:01

    For anyone fascinated by how the myth of the Western hero came into being, this is the book to read. Published in 1902, it became hugely popular for decades and inspired movies (a version with Gary Cooper in 1929) and a long-running TV series (1962-1971). A modern reader could easily guess the storyline without reading a synopsis - the classic elements are all there: tall, dark, handsome cowboy hero; pretty schoolmarm from back East; the villain who must finally face justice at the end of a gun.Few historical novels are dedicated to American presidents, however, and another whole dimension of the novel opens up with the name appearing on the dedication page -- Theodore Roosevelt, a college friend of the author's. What Wister does, besides telling a story of adventure and romance, is portray a particular kind of heroic figure, a natural man whose integrity is untainted by the corrupt (though civilized) values of the East.The book is a deliberate and often worshipful character study for the age of Teddy Roosevelt-style masculinity. The young Virginian charms us (and the narrator) with his courage and modesty and his thoughtful attempts to understand a world in which some men (even good ones) act dishonorably and make cowardly choices. Stoic and cool on the surface, the currents of sentiment run deep in this man. So does the will to self-improvement, as he reads Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott.This book connects with so much of American myth over the last 100 years that you could easily write another book about it. Or you can simply enjoy it for what it is, a historical romance so well conceived, in spite of its sometimes dated views, that you keep on reading through each episode of the story, glad that Wister was in no hurry to cut to the chase. This is a book for any reader of Western literature, fiction or nonfiction. In it the many traditions of the western come together in popularized form for the first time.Readers who enjoy this book will also like Elmer Kelton's novel, "The Day the Cowboys Quit." While it's more historically accurate in its portrayal of working cowboys, it captures many of Wister's same narrative elements, in the courage, modesty and thoughtfulness of its hero, its portrayal of the relationship between a top hand and his boss, its fateful pursuit of cattle rustlers, an account of a troubled friendship between two men, and of course the loneliness and yearning at the heart of a man who loves a woman from afar.

  • Leslie
    2019-02-16 23:59

    This classic is considered by many to be the first 'Western'. It certainly has most if not all the tropes now considered to be standard for that genre! The hero, whose name we never learn, is a young man of about 24 when the story opens and at that time, he has already been on his own for 10 years and has traveled and worked in most of the West. The descriptions of life in Wyoming in the period after the Civil War (~1870s) was well drawn and the romance between the cowboy and the schoolteacher from Vermont allowed some discussion about the differences between the settled East and the "Wild West". Overall, I liked this book more than I had expected. Even if you think Westerns aren't for you, this one is worth trying.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-02-13 05:44

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Hayden
    2019-02-08 02:08

    My enjoyment of this one was rather uneven; there were parts where I couldn't put it down, and other parts where I just had no interest at all. It was a nice change from the types of novels I normally read, though.

  • Tristram
    2019-02-19 06:54

    Beware of the Frog! This is what, as I would recommend, should be put as a warning appendix to the title of Owen Wister's famous Western novel "The Virginian", which was first published in 1902 - because, as I felt, one third of the novel in some way or other centres on the preparation and consumption as well as the "harvest" of our amphibious friends. "The Virginian" is commonly regarded as t h e literary forebear of the western, next to James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, and it probably has been adapted for the screen quite as often, amongst others by the renowned director Cecil B. DeMille in 1914. The most famous version derived from the book is probably the 1929 film starring Gary Cooper and Walter Huston. However, directors of "The Virginian" generally took a lot of liberties with this novel, basing their films rather loosely on Wister's tale. If you ask yourself why these directors may have felt that they had to re-invent the story instead of carefully sticking to the original, you might come to a conclusion that will not go down well with public opinion, which is inclined to hold the book in high esteem as the starting point of the most American genre. This unpopular conclusion is that "The Virginian" is a botch of a novel that may probably still be of interest to the scholar, though hardly to the literary pleasure-seeker - a conclusion that clearly ranks it with Cooper's five novels. First of all, it must be noted that Owen Wister is not much of a story-teller. Most of the action taking place in "The Virginian", for example the infamous lynching scene, is presented to the reader via time-delayed teichoscopy, i.e. characters give an account of what happened elsewhere. This device, which may be useful in plays, usually destroys quite a lot of tension in a novel, and is most cleverly applied in order to shed some light on the character reporting an event. Secondly, the tale is told by a first person narrator who is alien to the old West and its ways and who by and by earns the respect of the eponymous hero, as he emancipates himself from the reputation of the tender-footed greenhorn. Unfortunately, Wister more often than not feels the need to narrate events that took place in the greenhorn's absence, which imbues the narrator with a God-like omniscience at times and which allows him to even go into detail with regard to the most intimate conversations between the Virginian and his lady-love. Wister's failure to stick to perspective likewise detracts from the appeal of the book. You may say that Melville did the same thing in "Moby-Dick", but then Wister is no Melville in terms of depth and style, and where Melville still keeps up his narrative flow, Wister clearly runs dry more than once. Thirdly, the characters he describes are hardly able to create interest. His scoundrel, the sly and cowardly farm-hand Trampas, remains colourless and flat. The Virginian's love interest is a pasteboard character, and his hero has nothing to do with the grim, hard-nosed loners, or the bitter men that ride the Westerns of Anthony Mann or Budd Boetticher. Neither is he a mysterious knight-like Shane. The Virginian just seems to be a character created to illustrate Wister's naïve belief in Social Darwinism, which he sometimes has his narrator advocate in his typically stilted, but hardly skilful prose - just like this: "There can be no doubt of this : - All America is divided into two classes, - the quality and the equality. The latter will always recognize the former when mistaken for it. Both will be with us until our women bear nothing but kings.It was through the Declaration of Independence that we Americans acknowledged the ETERNAL INEQUALITY of man. For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We had seen little men artificially held up in high places, and great men artificially held down in low places, and our own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should thenceforth have equal liberty to find his own level. By this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to true aristocracy, saying, 'Let the best man win, whoever he is.' Let the best man win! That is America's word. That is true democracy. And true democracy and true aristocracy are one and the same thing. If anybody cannot see this, so much the worse for his eyesight." This is a bit hard to take for us who know that it is money that makes presidents, and it would still be hard to take, were it more skilfully written. All in all, "The Virginian" is quite similar to the afore-mentioned frog in that you might have difficulty in keeping this book in your hand and that, like many a bloated frog, it will be found smaller than assumed.

  • K.
    2019-02-15 06:45

    A most excellent western. ---Reread January 2012 in preparation for upcoming TJEd "Face to Face" seminar. I am not sure where my critical capacities were the other times I’ve read this book. This time I pulled way more out of it than ever before. Sure, some of the metaphors are a little far-fetched, the way the author spells out the Virginian’s drawl gets old, but all in all, this is a wonderful book. The moralizing is mostly well embedded but when it’s not, it’s told in a reasonable and humorous way. There’s nothing new here as far as Westerns go (except this is said to be the first Western, so I guess it was new, once), good guy is tall, gorgeous, strong, brave & true, gets the girl, kills the bad guy (who is a liar & a thief), lots of horse riding, a little lynching, some campfire and saloon scenes. But, there’s a little more to it that I hardly noticed before.As for the characters. The girl is slightly annoying and I didn’t ever really like her until the very end, when she proves that she almost, finally, deserves her hero. Scipio le Moyne is just the most delightful cowboy in the world. The scene in which he first appears (chapter 13) reminds me of the restaurant scene in “The Emperor’s New Groove.” (Yes, I have kids.) That sounds stupid, except they are both hilarious and readers of this book who have also watched that movie a time or two will understand if they go back to revisit this chapter. The hero, of course, is darn heroic (and all the things of the first paragraph as well). The narrator also plays an interesting part. He is never super important to the plot, but the way he tells the story is endearing and I love his humility and feel he must be describing the author himself and his experiences as an city-bred Easterner “Out West.”Favorite scenes: the baby swap, the missionary pastor Dr. MacBride, the frog eating, Em’ly the hen. In fact, that part about Em’ly is probably a favorite piece of literature for me, just absolutely and incredibly real and hilarious and moving at the same time. I love the Virginian’s comments about her. Heartbreaking moments: the said Em’ly, Shorty, the girl’s stupid family, Pedro. Best moralizing moments or themes or favorite lines: Natural aristocracy: “Here in flesh and blood was truth which I had long believed in words, but never met before. The creature we call gentleman lies deep in the hearts of thousands that are born without chance to master the outward graces of the type.” (9)Treatment of animals and what it says about a person (Shorty & Pedro; Balaam)“There’s a hen over there now that has no judgment” (57, speaking of Em’ly)“The Quality and the Equality” too much on this to rewrite here, but it’s so perfect. The beginning: “All America is divided into two classes—the quality and the equality. The latter will always recognize the former when mistaken for it. Both will be with us until our women bear nothing but kings.” Leadership (the whole book lies under that theme)“…there should be heavy damages for malpractice on human souls.” (170)“Any full-sized man ought to own a big lot of temper. And like all his valuable possessions, he’d ought to keep it and not lose any.” (175)Religion/Christianity: “He doesn’t know what Christianity is yet….The whole secret… lies in the way you treat people. As soon as you treat men as your brothers, they are ready to acknowledge you—if you deserve it—as their superior. That’s the whole bottom of Christianity.” (184)Entitlement: “It may be, that them whose pleasure brings [you] into this world owes [you] a living. But that don’t make the world responsible. The world did not beget you. I reckon man helps them that helps themselves.” (216)Jane Austen: “she talks too much.” ;) A big long discussion about right & wrong, good & evil, context & situational need. (Missy Vermont cannot understand how Wyoming justice can be correct in any context.) “Forgive me for asking you to use your mind. It is a think which no novelist should expect of his reader…” (348) Respect for women: “But all women ought to be something to a man.” (368)All together, this book really works. Enjoyable too. And always fun to fall in love with a gorgeous cowboy. ---2 more things: 1) the cover of my copy is deplorable, as is the small blurb about this book on goodreads (as if this book is really all about gun-fighting and taming the West, whereas it's really about leadership)and 2) Bill Pullman was exactly the WRONG man to play the Virginian in the movie, which said movie, was so LAME.

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    2019-02-07 01:40

    This book, published in 1902, has been hailed as the first Western. The Virginian of the novel is the forefather of Hondo and Shane and every other strong but silent cowboy found in films. Here's a snippet:The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: "When you call me that, SMILE." And he looked at Trampas across the table.There is some amusement in finding out where all those elements of the Western came from--the poker game that leads to a quick draw, the beautiful school marm and more. However, despite its venerable age, I can't call this a classic. True classics live because they have rounded characters who feel real, male and female both, instead of being filled with stereotypes. And they endure because of strong prose styles. This novel can boast neither. This is the kind of book that indicates obscenities with blanks but allows racial epithets to be casually flung about. It's told by an unnamed first person narrator about the unnamed title protagonist, at times drifting into a kind of third person as events are narrated the point of view character never witnessed. Mark Twain this ain't.There is some some smile-worthy humor and a fine turn of phrase here and there, but overall this reads like a rather creaky, if bloated, dime store novel. Comparing this to the other books on the Western recommendation list I was working through, I found this a more entertaining read than Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage or Louis L'Amour's Hondo, but not as well-written as Elmer Kelton's Many a River or Jack Schaefer's Shane. And the book certainly isn't up to the gold standard of novels like The Big Sky, Little Big Man, True Grit, Lonesome Dove or The Ox-Bow Incident.

  • Bridget
    2019-02-06 22:47

    How have I never read this book before? It's a little bit The Count of Monte Cristo, a little bit A Pair of Blue Eyes, and a little bit Little House on the Prairie, with a dash of High Noon and (I'm going to say it) Twilight thrown in. It's not a perfect book - the pacing is uneven sometimes and while I liked the way the narrator elbowed himself into the story every few chapters, it wasn't always clear how he knew some things but not others. Is there such a thing as a semiscient narrator?But it's a lovely member of that category of slow, thoughtful books that read like a love letter to their setting, in this case the American West. Maybe Minerva Teichert should illustrate some future reprinted edition.

  • Rodney
    2019-02-02 02:02

    This book may turn some off because its style of writing is over 100 years old. I enjoyed it thoroughly, however, and feel that it is an American classic. As many have stated, it is the consummate western, yet owes much to books that have come before it. It has a strong romantic strain reminiscent of an Austin novel, but can also be tough and gritty. The book is also quite philosophical and is a great source for quotes.Someone who is looking for a L'Amour western should steer clear of "The Virginian," but it is great read in a classic style. I particularly enjoyed reading about some places where I've travelled in Wyoming and Montana. The Tetons were prominent towards the end of the book. I would like to find the spot mentioned in the last chapter of the book.I recommend "The Virginian" in the Barnes and Noble Classics edition (about the only version still in print). There are great footnotes and endnotes as well as a wonderful introduction.

  • Willowy Whisper
    2019-02-03 23:42

    I put read, but that's not technically right. I only got part way through the first chapter...or something like that, before I gave up. So I can't really give it a rating. But...I love the TV show made after it (it's probably my favorite). The reading was just a little too slow, a little too old for me. But my Granddaddy (who told me I should read it and loaned me the book) said it was a good read, mostly because it showed in a literal sense how proper romance was conducted back then. So, having said all that, I haven't exactly read the book, but if the Virginian is anything at all like he is in the show, then I love him. :)

  • Charles
    2019-02-18 04:57

    I definitely enjoyed it. It is certainly slow moving by modern standards and with many asides that don't pertain to the main thrust of the story, but most of those were interesting reading and often quite funny. Wister had a witty way of writing. You can defnitely see how the conventions of the western novel were developed in this one, and The Virginian is a prototypical western hero. Overall, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

  • Cherie
    2019-01-26 04:52

    I listened to this as an audio book from my library. It was wonderfully written. The stories had me laughing out loud or holding my breath waiting to see what was going to happen next or sobbing. The story of the baby swap was my favorite. I grew up watching the old TV show from the 1960s with James Drury and Lee J. Cobb. I could still see all of their faces as I listened to Gene Engene read the book to me. Perfect!

  • Maciek
    2019-02-03 05:44

    The titular Virginian is propably the most badass character ever created in fiction. The country teacher can't help falling in love with him, and the author obviously couldn't help it too - the manner in which he describes the Virginian and his actions are hilarious and awesome at the same time.

  • Bailey Marissa
    2019-02-18 02:41

    I had watched some of the TV series before I read the book and knew that there would be differences, but wow I wasn't prepared...Judge Garth: Know as Judge Henry in the book. He's married (yeeeep) and is just kinda...there. He has no real personality.Mrs. Garth: Very awesome and she's great. I'm bitter she wasn't in the book more.Trampas: In the TV show, he's the Virginian's right hand man; in the book, Trampas is hella evil. So very evil.Molly: The Virginian's love interest in the book. I have strong feelings about her, but to keep it civil all I'm going to say is that she's a spoiled idiot.Steve is also kind of in this, but it ends badly for him. There's no Betsy and it makes me sad.All in all, just your normal slightly romantic cowboy story. Nothing too special.Recommended 12+ some language (including the n-words said twice), clean romance, cowboy violence, and mentions/childing playing lynchings.