The Virginian


The Virginian Essay, Research Paper

An average history student s depiction of the Wild West or frontier life during the 1870s would consist of a cowboy hero who is fighting a villain that is usually Native American. This depiction is a stereotype that resulted from such television shows like Bonanza during the 1950s and novels. The images portrayed in these items are passed on from generation to generation thus changing the perception of a history student today. A book that has both stereotypical qualities yet factual content is The Virginian. In Owen Wister s The Virginian, a history student can perceive the daily life, culture, and environment of the settlers in the Great Plains or The Frontier .

The Virginian is a story about a man who is nicknamed The Virginian . The book is written from the perspective of the Virginian’s “city-boy” friend, and the two have several escapades. One of the main conflicts in the story is between the Virginian and cattle-rustler/murderer Trampas. Throughout the story the Trampas are locked in combat. Trampas also tries to make the Virginian look bad but it does not work. Miss Molly Wood, a dainty school teacher from the East with a family history and a mind of her own becomes the girl for the Virginian so the Virginian sets off on a comical wooing. The book ends with the two getting married and having a good life together.

The daily life of a person can be very different to each other do to different occupations. The different jobs you can get in the frontier are a farmer, a cowboy. The jobs are not what one expects. In The Virginian, The Virginian has to wake up early in the mornings and work up to 12 hours a day rounding up cattle. After words, he would go to sleep under the stars or outside. The job of a cowboy is to round up cattle and deliver them places. They must endure hardships like stampede, thunderstorms, and dust storms. This quote explains their condition.

We never passed a human being this day. Some wild cattle rushed up to us and away from us; antelope stared at us from a hundred yards; coyotes ran skulking through the sage-brush to watch us from the hill; at our noon meal we killed a rattlesnake and shot some young sage chickens, which were good at supper, roasted at out campfire. (Wister 46)

Life for a farmer was difficult also. In The Virginian, a farmer must have to react

Quickly to thunderstorms, and locusts attacks in order for them to protect their crops and livestock. At one point in the story, Miss Molly Wood is worried about her chickens because a thunderstorm could occur. She was also afraid for her pigs too.

In The Virginian, the culture is very much the same, as one would expect. The men are very polite to the women. If they get married, the two get settled down to open a farm or a cattle ranch. In the book, The Virginian is very kind to Molly Wood. He was very polite to her in order to win her love.

The way they speak in The Virginian is the same as some cowboys spoke in the television shows or books. They speak with a country accent. This quote shows their country accents.

Energetic, ain t they? said the Southerner. But none of em was whelped savage enough to sing himself bloodthirsty. And though they re strainin mighty earnest not to be tame, they re going back to Sun Creek with me accordin to the Judges s awdehs. Never a calf of them will desert to Rawhide, for all their dangerousness; nor I ain t goin to have any fuss over it. Only one is left now that don t sing. Maybe I will have to make some arrangements about him. (Wister 141)

A history student s perceptive of the environment in the frontier can be changed from reading The Virginian. A normal student s perceptive of the area is a cowboy town with a saloon, a sheriff s office, a inn, and some homes. Although some towns of the west really looked like that, most were not. Most of the time, the towns were usually separated for farming. Most of the people had to either farm or be a cowboy.

The area of the Great Plains is very much a plain area and some desert areas. In the Virginian s travels, he goes around plains, and sometimes desert. He sometimes goes around to a rocky area near a mountain. This quote shows the landscape of the area.

In this cuplike spread of the ravine the shone warmly down, the tall red cliff was warm, the pines were was warm film and filter of green; outside the shade across Bear Creek rose to the steep, soft, open yellow hill, warm and high to the blue, and Bear Creek tumbled upon its sun sparkling stones. (Wister 280)

This explains the scarcity of finding an area like this because in the Great Plains there is very little trees found. Also, in the desert, there are practically no trees located.

In order for the people in the Great Plains to get around, they must use horses. Horses are very important for a cowboy to get around and drag carts. The cowboys tried to catch wild horses in The Virginian.

The Virginian can help a history student to get a better understanding of history in the Great Plains during the 1870 s. A history student can learn about the life, culture, and the environment of an average Great Plains settler. Although, some of the Virginian s stories were fictional and not related to real history, most of it explains the real life struggles of a real cowboy. A history student can understand the hardships of what a real life cowboy does and appreciate it.

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