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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – June 15, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

An excellent edition. / Rhys Williams, Warwick University

About the Author

Robert Shulman is Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Washington.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199554102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199554102
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.7 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on October 16, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone fascinated by how the myth of the Western hero came into being, this is the book to read. Published in 1902, it became hugely popular for decades and inspired movies (a version with Gary Cooper in 1929) and a long-running TV series (1962-1971). A modern reader could easily guess the storyline without reading a synopsis - the classic elements are all there: tall, dark, handsome cowboy hero; pretty schoolmarm from back East; the villain who must finally face justice at the end of a gun.

Few historical novels are dedicated to American presidents, however, and another whole dimension of the novel opens up with the name appearing on the dedication page -- Theodore Roosevelt, a college friend of the author's. What Wister does, besides telling a story of adventure and romance, is portray a particular kind of heroic figure, a natural man whose integrity is untainted by the corrupt (though civilized) values of the East.

The book is a deliberate and often worshipful character study for the age of Teddy Roosevelt-style masculinity. The young Virginian charms us (and the narrator) with his courage and modesty and his thoughtful attempts to understand a world in which some men (even good ones) act dishonorably and make cowardly choices. Stoic and cool on the surface, the currents of sentiment run deep in this man. So does the will to self-improvement, as he reads Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott.

This book connects with so much of American myth over the last 100 years that you could easily write another book about it. Or you can simply enjoy it for what it is, a historical romance so well conceived, in spite of its sometimes dated views, that you keep on reading through each episode of the story, glad that Wister was in no hurry to cut to the chase.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By H. P. on August 20, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Virginian is a historical novel, as it self-identifies immediately, defining "any narrative which presents faithfully a day and a generation" as "of necessity historical." The Virginian is also a romance and a western (the original western), set in Wyoming in the late 19th Century.

Surprisingly for the genesis of all westerns, The Virginian is light on action. It very much exists in its beautiful, lonely world. It was a time and place in which human interaction could be few and far between and people (the titular Virginian most of all) did not waste words. But that only makes dialogue all the more satisfying. The debates on literature between the Virginian and Molly are a great treat. In particular they emphasize just how wide a cultural gap exists between the roughhewn cow-puncher from a farming family in southern Appalachia and the refined schoolmarm from a good family in New England. It is just unfortunate that I am not literate enough to fully appreciate all of the allusions.

The chapter just before the hanging is one of the best in the book. It wonderfully captures the loneliness of the high plains, the tension of the situation, and the decidedly odd nature of the hanging. The entire final third of the book is about as pitch perfect as a novel gets.

The Virginian is without a doubt a product of the 19th Century. The characters often partake in the annoying habit of labeling positive qualities as masculine and negative qualities as feminine. The subtlety regarding matters touching on sex or violence can approach incomprehensibility, even to a careful reader. But it can also be refreshing to the reader used to modern novels (Lord knows subtlety is in short supply these days).
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Bain on April 30, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
/

VIRGINIAN -by Owen Wister ( first reviewed 30 April 2006)

Though "The Virginian" has a standing as a Western novel, it is philosophically rich, and Owen Wister used this novel to articulate certain fundamental truths. (I always find great clarification from older books, books written before TV, before Computers, and even before Radio. In these, one can still find clarification of values, that is not easily found in modern literature, when those who write books don't know the difference between "Come!" and "Go sic'em!" ) Wister's book is not just a "shoot'em-up". The reader needs to be aware of the depth of the philosophical arguments offered by his characters

(1)
the definition of a "gentleman" (in Chapter Two)

(2)
the conflict between GOOD (the Virginian) & EVIL (Trampas, the cowhand turned rustler and worse, corrupter of men, resulting in their destruction

(3)
the definition of "love" ; NOT the romantic love between the school teacher and the cowboy. Rather, it was the love the Virginian showed to his fellow cowhands, who were vulnerable to manipulation and deceit by crooked men, and in trying to shepherd souls along the lines of the soul's deepest strengths. (Example: the Judge's hired hand who loved horses).

(4)
the definition of "spirituality"; Wister draws a stark contrast between the traveling preacher, who wears his religious "act" like a cheap black suit and poorly conceals his contempt of common men in his arrogance and superiority complex.
Moreover, Chapter Two demonstrates the essential requirement of HUMILITY that the Virginian manifests (a character trait utterly lacking in the minister).
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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (Oxford World's Classics)
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