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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by…

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (1902)

by Owen Wister

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Originally published in 1902, The Virginian by Own Wister depicts life on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, a classic American novel and considered the first true western ever written. A number of events in this book have become clichés of the western genre. Along with the lynching of cattle thieves and a dramatic shoot-out we also have the original cowboy prototype, a tall, lean, quiet man who speaks with his deeds and has a strong moral code. This is the fellow that all the women admire and the men want to be whether he is telling the villain to “smile when you call me that” or discussing poetry with his school teacher sweetheart.

But this is more than a romanticized tale of the west, Wister is also portraying the end of an era. This book is showing the changing of the western frontier. Schools are springing up, women are coming west, the gentling influence of home and family are slowly changing the way things are done. The old “wild” west is giving way to more moderate ways and the time of quick and harsh justice for lawbreakers is coming to an end.

I found this a little dated yet still a strong historical story. I was surprised at how much of the book was given over to the romance, which to me was the weak area of the book as it seemed over idealized and rather passionless. I much preferred the love story the author wrote about this place and time in American history for in his colorful descriptions and varied characters one can find the passion that the main characters lacked for each other. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Nov 2, 2015 |
Exactly itself. ( )
  cancione | Oct 14, 2015 |
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. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
A wonderful book that recreates the Wild West as we've come to know it, (which probably means not too realistic). But I enjoyed it immensely. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
I think I have to put this down for a while. I'm not able to concentrate right now and although there are some beautifully written parts, I'm having trouble getting into the story.
  emmytuck | Sep 27, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Owen Wisterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moyers, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Theodore Roosevelt
Some of these pages you have seen, some you have praised, one
stands new-written because you blamed it; and all, my dear critic,
beg leave to remind you of their author's changeless admiration.
First words
Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both men and women, to the window; therefore I rose and crossed the car to see what it was.
I had stepped into a world new to me indeed, and novelties were ocurring with scarce any time to get breath between them. As to where I should sleep, I had forgotten that problem altogether in my curiosity. What was the Virginian going to do now? I began to know that the quiet of the man was volanic.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0895773058, Hardcover)

This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Not indexed. Not illustrated. 1902 edition. Excerpt: ...--" "He's not a bit like that. Yes, he's exactly like that," said Molly. And she would have snatched the photograph away, but her aunt retained it. "Well," she said, "I suppose there are days when he does not kill people." "He never killed anybody!" And Molly laughed. "Are you seriously--" said the old lady. "I almost might--at times. He is perfectly splendid." "My dear, you have fallen in love with his clothes." "It's not his clothes. And I'm not in love. He often wears others. He wears a white collar like anybody." "Then that would be a more suitable way to be photographed, I think. He couldn't go round like that here. I could not receive him myself." "He'd never think of such a thing. Why, you talk as if he were a savage." The old lady studied the picture closely for a minute. "I think it is a good face," she finally remarked. "Is the fellow as handsome as that, my dear?" More so, Molly thought. And who was he, and what were his prospects? were the aunt's next inquiries. She shook her head at the answers which she received; and she also shook her head over her niece's emphatic denial that her heart was lost to this man. But when their parting came, the old lady said:--"God bless you and keep you, my dear. I'll not try to manage you. They managed me--" A sigh spoke the rest of this sentence. "But I'm not worried about you--at least, not very much. You have never done anything that was not worthy of the Starks. And if you're going to take him, do it before I die so that I can bid him welcome for your sake. God bless you, my dear." And after the girl had gone back to Bennington, the great-aunt had this thought: "She is like us all. She wants a man that is a man." Nor did the old lady breathe her knowledge to any member of the family. For she was...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:33 -0400)

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The Virginian, by Owen Wister, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

    The western is one of America's most important and influential contributions to world culture. And it was Owen Wister's The Virginian, first published in 1902, that created the familiar archetypes of character, setting, and action that still dominate western fiction and film.

    The Virginian's characters include: The hero, tall, taciturn, and unflappable, confident in his skills, careful of his honor, mysterious in his background; the heroine, the “schoolmarm from the East, dedicated to civilizing the untamed town, but willing to adapt to its ways—up to a point; and the villain, who is a liar, a thief, a killer, and worst of all, a coward beneath his bluster. Its setting—the lonely small town in the midst of the vast, empty, dangerous but overwhelmingly beautiful landscape—plays so crucial a role that it may be regarded as one of the primary characters. And its action—the cattle roundup, the capture of the rustlers, the agonizing moral choices demanded by “western justice, and the climactic shoot-out between hero and villain—shaped the plots of the thousands of books and movies that followed.

    John G. Cawelti has published ten books, including Apostles of the Self-Made Man, Adventure, Mystery and Romance, The Spy Story, Leon Forrest: Introductions and Interpretations, and The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel. He has also published about seventy essays in the fields of American literature, cultural history, and popular culture, and has made oral presentations at more than one hundred universities and scholarly conferences.… (more)

    » see all 11 descriptions

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