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Between 1860 and 1900, a period that spanned the Civil War, the primary medium that defined white manhood was the dime store novel. It was the first medium to provide America with all of the canonical stories about the heroics on the white man on the Western frontier. The action-packed themes of these stories included adventures of rescue and capture against Native Americans, overcoming slave insurrections, and starting life anew with a fresh frontier identity, the pursuit and escape of wanted men, and the exploits of the romantic hero of the Western frontier, a figure that was always a blue-eyed, blonde-headed, muscular, virile, handsome, white man, epitomized by two-gun Cowboys such as Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Johnny Mack Brown, and eventually Clint Eastwood.
Invariably, in the frontier setting, law appeared as a luxury. Disputes, whether major or minor, were resolved violently with a six-shooter. The code of the frontier had only a binary basis: It was savagery versus civilization, white versus black, crime versus morality, good versus evil. And to the extent the moral order was managed at all, it was restored only momentarily, and only through superior strength and intelligence: In the West, "might was right." American white males seemed most proud of the fact that the West was a "survival of the fittest, a dog-eat-dog, kind of world, and thus was the ultimate test of the meddle of their manhood.
For half a century, cycles of violence was seen as a major part of the established-order on the western frontier as well as the established order in the rest of America.Read more ›
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