The Virginian, By Owen Wister Essay

1159 words - 5 pages

The Virginian

The cowboy hero, The Virginian, as portrayed in Owen Wister’s novel was the first of his kind and today is known as the stereotypical mythic cowboy figure which our view of the western frontier are based from. The Virginian was the first full length western novel apart from the short dime novels which marked the final stage in the evolution of the cowboy hero to a national icon. The Virginian was published in 1902 and at that time was wildly popular because of the settlement of the west. The story of the cowboy who had the skill and courage to take control of the untamed frontier enthralled people. The cowboy hero had a few distinguished qualities, he was a self-appointed vigilante, he had a very strict moral code, he had exceptional perception skills and he had the ability to adapt. Owen Wister’s The Virginian was the first to portray these qualities and really created a deeper cowboy character.

While the western frontier was still new and untamed, the western hero often took on the role of a vigilante. The vigilante’s role in the frontier was that of extralegal verve which was used to restrain criminal threats to the civil peace and opulence of a local community. Vigilantism was typical to the settler-state societies of the western frontier where the structures and powers of government were at first very feeble and weak. The typical cowboy hero had a willingness to use this extralegal verve. The Virginian demonstrated this throughout with his interactions with Trampas, most notably in the interactions leading up to the shoot out and during the shoot-out itself. “Others struggled with Trampas, and his bullet smashed the ceiling before they could drag the pistol from him… Yet the Virginian stood quiet by the bar, and many an eye of astonishment was turned upon him.” (300). The Virginian will not act rashly to the drunken Trampas but was ready to protect those who needed protection when the time came. At this point in the story The Virginian’s moral code shown through, he understood how important soberness was during a shooting contest, so consequently he did not act against Trampas indignation, a true hero would never take advantage of his adversary. When a shoot-out happens, a hero’s aim is always accurate and even when he might be injured; it is nearly always the villain who is killed. “He saw Trampas raise his arm from the ground and fall again, and lie there this time, still. A little smoke was rising from the pistol on the ground, and he looked at his own and saw the smoke flowing upward out of it.” (310). The Virginian’s shoot-out with Trampas, set an average outline for the western hero to follow. The Virginian’s moral veracity demanded that he face the outlaw, and at the moment of their duel saw that good conquered evil. The shoot-out was close because the Virginian and Trampas both were relatively equally matched in skill. Meaning that it doesn’t always have to be that the hero is superior in skills to the villain,...

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