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The Ox-Bow Incident (Modern Library Classics) Mass Market Paperback – April 27, 2004

90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Set in 1885, The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West. First published in 1940, it focuses on the lynching of three innocent men and the tragedy that ensues when law and order are abandoned. The result is an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature. As Wallace Stegner writes, [Clark's] theme was civilization, and he recorded, indelibly, its first steps in a new country.


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About the Author

Wallace Stegner's many books include Crossing to Safety, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Angle of Repose.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reissue edition (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812972589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812972580
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am an English teacher. I came across reviews of The Ox-Bow Incident while doing a search for a student. I have always regarded this as a book which should be required reading, both for its literary and social value; and when teaching 11th grade, I have used it as a class assignment. The first part of the book which some readers found slow is really quite necessary; it provides the background that shows the reader that these are quite ordinary people - people that one would meet everyday. It contrasts with the violence in which they later become involved. The lynching of three innocent men is really not the crux of the story but rather the pivotal incident which allows the author to lead the reader to see what happens when one abandons law and order and then, when there are tragic results, must come to terms with his own conscience. I would also recommend the film with Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn which is well acted and true to the novel. I have generally found that once students get into the novel, the book generates a good deal of thoughtful writing and discussion.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) on June 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This classic novel by Clark is a superb study of mob rule; of how normal men can allow their inner anger and authoritarianism to control their judgment and honesty. The story is told in the first person by Art Croft, a trailhand who rides into the small Nevada town of Bridger's Wells in 1885 with his friend Gil Carter. The first chapter (there are only five chapters) has all of the structure of a typical western novel (bar, poker game, fight), yet when a young rider arrives to say that some cattle have been stolen and a man killed, the story about how men let anger goad their actions sets the novel apart from other westerns. It is a true classic. In 1977 the Western Writers of America named it one of the top twenty-five western novels of all time (it was ranked second after Wister's "The Virginian"). The book was also made into a classic film starring Henry Fonda. I recommend this book highly. I really don't understand the comments of the reviewer from Massachusetts (of Jan. 10, 1999). The tale is very realistic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I think "western," I think of some piece of pulp that features cowboys 'n' injuns 'n' good guys 'n' bad guys, all shooting at each other and using words like "Partner."
But not this book.
What a raw, powerful, insightful story. It doesn't follow your typical western formula. No, this is a character study. It gives you a cold, unflinching look at mob justice, at how hard it is to go against the crowd, at how sometimes natural leaders should NOT be leaders, and the terrible, tragic results of acting on incomplete or outright false information and taking justice into your own hands.
If you really read it and let yourself become immersed in the events and characters, when you reach certain parts of the book it literally feels like you've been punched in the stomach.
It's moving, forceful writing that leaves you exhausted and almost despairing after the last page is done. It's rare that I read books that physically affect me, but this was one.
By all means, read it. Learn from it.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Nancy F. Jones on February 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a study in mob violence. It is definitely slow starting and preachy in its first 100 pages. It demonstrates how a charismatic leader who is significantly above most of the gathered cowboys and townsfolk in social status, can override the voices of reason and turn ordinary people into a lynch mob. It plays on the distrust of the law (see the OJ trial for a modern example) common to everyday folk in the West of 1885. I wish there had been more character development. One knows little about any of these people, including the victims. However, it provides a valuable insight into the ease with which a crowd can be turned into a mob, and how hard it is for an individual to speak up against a mob. Definitely a worthwhile book to read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By gac1003 on September 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Walter Van Tilburg Clark's classic novel begins like many Westerns: two ranchers, Art Croft and Gil Carter, ride into the town of Bridger's Wells. They stop at the saloon, have a few drinks after which a poker game begins followed by a fight. Things change quickly when a young man storms into town with a tale of murder and cattle rustling. Though he hasn't actually seen any of the events he's describing, the young man's tale is strong enough to insense the men in the bar. They form a lynch mob and go after the murderers and rustlers.
"The Ox-Bow Incident" is told through the eyes of Art Croft. From him, we see and hear Farnley who is dead set on forming the mob to exact justice; of Osgood and Davies, who both try to convince the group that justice can only be handled properly by the law; and Art himself who has doubts about the lynch mob but goes along, like every other man.
This is a story about who determines what is right and wrong and how justice should be determined with all the facts instead of partial truths and one-sided ideals. It deals with the mob mentality and its consequences. Not your typical fare with a Western. Clark expertly handles the subject matter, and as I was reading, I felt as though I were part of the mob, knowing the mob is not right but powerless to do anything to stop it, swept along for the ride and the outcome. A definite classic.
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