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The Virginian by Owen Wister
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The Virginian (original 1902; edition 1968)

by Owen Wister (Author)

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2,085386,630 (3.81)1 / 160
In the thousands of miles of rugged rangeland around Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the only law that rules is the law of the gun. A man has to have an iron jaw and a fast trigger to stay alive. And no one is tougher than the Virginian. A peaceable man by nature, slow to anger and soft-spoken, fair and just, nonetheless he brooks nonsense from no man. Once wronged, he is a judge with a gavel forged of cold steel. Frontier justice - Virginian style.Until he meets a woman. A woman who things she can tame his wild heart and teach him the ways of peace. But can the Virginian bring peace to Medicine Bow?… (more)
Member:RosemaryDemos
Title:The Virginian
Authors:Owen Wister (Author)
Info:Classic Press (1968), Edition: 1st, 282 pages
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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister (1902)

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 Westerns: The Virginian14 unread / 14brickhorse, April 2012

» See also 160 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Published in 1902, this book is considered a seminal novel of the American west. Set in Wyoming Territory in the 1870’s and 1880’s, the book’s narrator is met at the railroad station by the Virginian, and they gradually become friends. The Virginian works as a cowboy on a cattle ranch. He develops a romantic interest in the new schoolteacher, recently arrived from Vermont. He faces a gradually increasing animosity from a dishonest and jealous opponent. He experiences mental anguish over his role in frontier justice.

At the time it was written, this historical period was not that long in the past. Dramatic tension is established through the underlying conflict between Eastern and Western views of what should constitute “civilization” with the East represented by the schoolteacher and the West by the Virginian and his employer. Action oriented scenes are fewer than expected. Much of the narrative is spent in describing the landscape, riding horses, and engaging in dialogue. The Virginian’s friend, serving as narrator, becomes omniscient in places where he could not have been privy to events and conversations.

This novel is remarkably clear of Hollywood tropes. For example, it contains minimal gunfighting and Indians play only a background role. The story itself is entertaining and more complex than I had expected. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
"Forgive my asking you to use your mind. It is a thing which no novelist should expect of his reader."

For much of this novel, there is certainly no danger there. As a Western ("the first!"), it is quite a slog: the author perhaps set out to do a character study, and ended up writing a courtship novel. Now, a romance certainly plays a part in many Western tales, but when the pinings and longings outnumber the ropings and shootings, there's a bit of a problem.

The tale has an occasional narrator: a Brit touring the American frontier, and progressing from hapless city boy to accomplished (well, at least not so hapless) trailsman. I found the narrator much more interesting than the Virginian, whose character is fixed from the first few pages, and neither disappoints nor surprises. A bit more of what the narrator got up to while off-screen, and a bit less of how good the Virginian was at cattle/personnel/resource management everything, would have been quite welcome.

There is a climactic shootout, of course, and in this scene the book gets full marks. Expertly done, really. The participants both have heavy misgivings, but having made their grievance public, and perhaps run the ol' mouth off after a lunchtime whiskey, they are obligated to a firefight, lest they lose their respective followers due to the appearance of cowardice. There is none of that stand-in-the-street-at-noon nonsense either: each wants to kill the other and not be killed in turn, and it is all gone about quite sensibly.

Not much more to say about it, really - not sure it is worth the time to read, but there is certainly worse fare out there if you're stuck on a plane or at a holiday dinner. One last Wisterism for ya:
In gatherings of more than six there will generally be at least one fool, and this company must have numbered twenty men. ( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
What happened to my review of this book? I have read this twice now and really like this book. It will definitely not be for everyone as it is written in a rather meandering old fashioned style especially in the first half. There are some beautiful lyrical descriptive passages though. This story is told second hand from the POV of a man new to the west who observes all these happenings. Sometimes the POV is not consistent. That and other writing oddities are easily overlooked because it is a strong story.

This is the novel that is considered the first true American western. Most of the stereotypes and tropes can be found here. There is romance, revenge, gunfights, long chases on horseback, hangings, humor and practical jokes. There are portions dealing with the relationship between a man and his horse which rings totally true to a horse person.

What this story boils down to in essence though is a commentary on what it means to be a man. It is about living up to your responsibilities and doing the right thing regardless of cost.

I have always said that the ideal man would be a cross between Tarzan and the Virginian (book versions of both not TV or movies).

Ladies if you want to read a story about a real man, read the Virginian. ( )
  Luziadovalongo | Jul 14, 2022 |
The Virginian is a man of few words, high principles, and deep thoughts.

This seemed a more romantic version of Lonesome Dove [b:Lonesome Dove|256008|Lonesome Dove (Lonesome Dove #1)|Larry McMurtry|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1559668037l/256008._SY75_.jpg|3281465]. Not as much action, but some of the same feelings. ( )
  christyco125 | Jul 4, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1990: "Touted as a populizer of the American cowboy, a romantic tale of chivalry in territorial Wyoming. A tale of "the Virginian", a cowboy who, possessing courage, charm, and gentleness, is able to secure an Eastern-bred (New England) lady as his wife. A tale of the American west before it really became governed - a West that Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Owen Wister experienced." I have no memory of reading this but sure do like the quotes from it I found online. Seems to be full of simple, gentle wisdom. ( )
  MGADMJK | Apr 2, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Owen Wisterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cohn, R. J.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Moyers, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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In the thousands of miles of rugged rangeland around Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the only law that rules is the law of the gun. A man has to have an iron jaw and a fast trigger to stay alive. And no one is tougher than the Virginian. A peaceable man by nature, slow to anger and soft-spoken, fair and just, nonetheless he brooks nonsense from no man. Once wronged, he is a judge with a gavel forged of cold steel. Frontier justice - Virginian style.Until he meets a woman. A woman who things she can tame his wild heart and teach him the ways of peace. But can the Virginian bring peace to Medicine Bow?

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