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The Ox-Bow Incident. [Hardcover]

Walter Van Tilburg Clark
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 3 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st Edition edition (1940)
  • ASIN: B0006AP2PM
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Gil and I crossed the eastern divide about two by the sun. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crude Action and Subtle Narrative 5 April 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I find myself in total agreement with a previous reviewer who is as puzzled as I am as to why this book is not more celebrated. It is harrowing, compelling and thought-provoking in equal measures. As Clifton Fadiman says in his penetrating afterword (The Modern Library Classics Edition): "it bears about the same relation to an ordinary western that "The Maltese Falcon" does to a hack detective story". A driving story line is accompanied by a remarkable range of economically drawn and totally convincing characters. From the outset we are as discomforted as the audience watching a Hitchcock film, our sympathies and prejudices probed and illuminated. We are no more at our ease than Art Croft, Davies, and most of the other characters outside Tetley. This is far more than an indictment of mob rule. Clark explores with power and sensitivity our capacity for self-delusion, the ease with which we find refuge from what is right but disturbing......and here I am beginning to fall into the trap of intellectualising/schematising what is so successfully brought to palpable life in the novel. A remarkable book that like all great books transcends its genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bowled over 4 Nov 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I wanted to give only 3 stars at first and then thought better of it.There's no denying that the Wild West is convincingly brought to life on the page. No need to deny either that the plot and its moral overtones are eloquently dealt with. No need to argue about the author's grasp of society as a whole and of how men act. It is also obvious that he knows exactly how to express himself with force using his characters to relay different points of views.What irked me a little, although the book is a very short one, is that some scenes are drawn at such lengths that I felt like falling asleep while reading. One such example is the overlong wait until the men finally leave the town to go and hunt the rustlers and supposed murderers. I think that the book would have fared better as a long short story or as a novella. I also ended up nearly disliking Davies, the Saint Manqué as he is called at the end. His exaggerated guilt smacked very much of self indulgence or self obsession. It felt as if the fact that he hadn't been able to save the three men was more of a problem for him than it was for them. I thought a little humility there would have been nice. I grew tired of his ' I know I could have saved them...' It seemed to me that what he wanted was self importance and that his inability to stop the lynching stopped him being regarded as the hero of the day. He really grew quite tiresome with his constant whining. As for the rest of the posse, I suppose most readers will find it difficult to understand why hardly anyone was willing to wait until Drew had been asked if he really had or hadn't sold those beasts. To think that the lives of 3 men counted less than the fear of being thought a softy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walter van Tilburg Clark - The Ox-Bow Incident 2 July 2010
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
I really can't imagine why this book is not more famous. This has the same kind of immediately obvious qualities that have made books like Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, etc, such enduring American classics, have indeed made them synonymous with the term. It's purely American in tone and setting, deals with that weighty issue of morality and justice which goes down so well in the classic canon, and indeed deals with the very foundling state of those concepts in the emergent nation. And, of course, it is well-written and a great story.

The novel crackles with tension from the very first pages, and I could tell I was in for something special. What follows is a stark, sinewy tale of a western small-town mob that gets itself in a lather about some cattle rustling and goes off to track the culprits, with what every man among them knows is a plan to lynch them when found. Voices dissent, voices shout down, quiet men go along for the ride, simple men go along for the red, dissenters go to try and provide a rational voice, and, eventually, some men are found.

The Ox-Bow Incident has a simple plot and structure but is nonetheless a masterpiece. It chews up issues of justice, law, democracy, masculinity, strength over reason, morality over action, cowardliness over moral conviction. The characters - particularly poor Davies, who by the end, though the only vocal dissenter, is the one to truly tie himself up in existential knots and angst - are sketched fantastically for such a small tale. All of them feel like icebergs, that the events of this tale are only a tiny portion of the arc of their lives. Small sketches are drawn, but from that you reasonably believe you can extrapolate entire lives, entire characters.

It's a great achievement, and I would recommend it to everyone.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dangers of Groupthink 3 Jan 2009
This novel has gone straight into my top five reads ever and that's no mean achievement. It's one of those books that leaves an emotional scar on you that takes days to wear off, and that for me is the sign of a fantastic book.

Plot-wise, I'm sure you know already that this is a Western and that you've read over on the US Amazon site that it's to do with a lynch mob and how it takes on a life of its own and carries people along with it. Well, what I have to add to the discussion (and I only put up reviews when I do have something to add) is that there's a name for the psychological phoenomenon that the book describes.....

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a novel about Groupthink. To quote from Wikipedia: "Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. During Groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group's balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.
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