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The Ox-Bow Incident (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – March 13, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 103 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.

About the Author

Walter Van Tilburg Clark (3 August 1909 ― 10 November 1971) was an American author notable for writing "The Ox-Bow Incident".

Norman Nodel began his illustrious career as a field artist in the army, drawing military maps during World War II. His association with Classics Illustrated began in 1954 and his first work was an adaptation of Van Tilburg Clark’s classic, The Ox-Bow Incident. His catalogue within the CI series is vast. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; 1 edition (March 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375757023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375757020
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In 2007, I was transferred from the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana to the Marianna Federal Correctional Institute in Florida, which required that I spend two months in the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. Two months is a long time when all you're allowed to do is play cards, watch TV, or read, which is what I spent most of my time doing. They had a little push-cart in the unit with a hundred or so books on it, and they'd swap it with the carts in the other units once a week. If you actually stumbled upon a good book, you'd better read it fast because they don't tell you when you're leaving, they just wake you up at two o'clock in the morning and tell you it's time for your flight on "con-air."

Toward the end of my stay, I started reading a western called "The Ox-Bow Incident". I don't particularly care too much for the genre, but this was no ordinary western. It's considered a masterpiece according to the blurb on the front cover, and indeed it is. The more I read, the better it got, and I was coming to the climax at two o'clock one morning when I got the knock on my door letting me know it was time to go.

I recently got a chance to read it again and the ending is even better than I thought it would be. It deals with mob violence and the lynchings that were common in American frontier life. It makes me realize that I'm very lucky to be living in the time and place that I inhabit now, contrary to all appearances.

Review written by David Allan Reeves
Author of "Running Away From Me"
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