There can be no doubt of this : All America is divided
into two classes,--the quality and the
The latter will always recognize the former when
mistaken for it. Both will be with us until our
It was through the Declaration of Independence that
we Americans acknowledged the ETERNAL
A friend of Theodore Roosevelt, to whom he dedicated this novel, Owen Wister is considered the father of the Western. The Virginian has been filmed at least five times and was voted the greatest Western of all time. Even if you've never read the book or seen one of the movies, you're more than likely familiar with the one great line : "When you call me that, smile!"
All of that said, it has not worn as well as some other classic novels. It's influence, particularly in establishing the idea of a code of the West, is undeniable, but it just doesn't read all that smoothly. It suffers from several significant flaws : the romance which occupies the center of the novel is both too reserved and too idealized; the author uses a woefully awkward dialect to render the Virginian's speech; and is affected by a too delicate sensibility about the rough justice that is meted out. This last may well be the product of some Eastern embarrassment over the still wild nature of the West, but it is also a wee bit dandified. There's a very amusing review at Amazon which claims that this is an unacknowledged gay classic. I don't know that I'd go that far, but I take the reviewer's point that the true love in the book is between the narrator and the Virginian, and that the schoolmarm is mostly annoying. Likewise, the narrator betrays a certain squeamishness throughout which at least borders on the effete.
It's still a book worth reading, if for no other reason than that it spawned one of the most popular genres in all of literature and the movies. There are also several asides in which Wister delineates the rough moral code which would become so familiar in the many Westerns to follow. But the prospective reader should be prepared for a novel which is showing every year of its age.
-Owen Wister (kirjasto)
-ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "owen wister"
-ETEXT : The Virginian : A Horseman Of The Plains (1902)(Project Gutenberg)
-Owen Wister Review
-American Literature on the Web : Owen Wister (1860-1938)
-History of Owen Wister
-ESSAY : When You Print That, Smile (Edwin McDowell, NY Times)
-ESSAY : Hero of the Day : Owen Wister (Daily Objectivist)
-ESSAY : Owen Wister (George Alex Windish, Absolute Write)
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd