Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle The Grand Tour Prize Draw Learn more Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
The Virginian
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 27 August 2005
Owen Wister's "The Virginian," first published in 1902, is considered by many to exemplify the American Western novel. Wister certainly established the code of the West, and the stereotypical figures of the tough but genteel and courageous cowboy, (the one wearing the white hat and riding the white horse), the spinster schoolmarm from back East, horse rustlers, and the corrupt villain beyond redemption. In fact, the novel contains a scene constituting the first known "shootout" in American literature. Our narrator is an easterner, a man who visits Judge Henry, the Virginian's employer, at his ranch on Sunk Creek fairly frequently. I came to think of him as Mr. Wister himself, who did travel to Wyoming and parts West extensively.
From my perspective, the Virginian, whose true name is never revealed, is anything but a stereotype, although many heroes have been modeled after him. Yes, he is tall dark and handsome. This description is not terribly distinctive or unusual. One could definitely call him the strong silent type, and he does have a marked sense of honor, loyalty and justice. However, born and raised in Virginia before the Civil War, it is realistic to assume he was instilled with the values of a southern gentleman. Although he was not to the manor born, his family was decent and hardworking, and one certainly does not need wealth to live by the Good Book. A war veteran and a longtime wanderer throughout the western territories, he had learned survival skills by his mid-twenties. Loose lips was not a desirable trait if one wanted to live a long and healthy life. I found the Virginian to be a credible character, flawed like all men, but with a clear and unwavering sense of right and wrong. He is a man suited to his environment and to his times, and personifies the rugged individual.
It is important to note the period in which this novel was written to fully enjoy it, just as it is crucial to understand the times and setting in which such authors as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and George Eliot wrote. In "The Virginian," Wister states: "It was through the Declaration of Independence that we Americans acknowledged the eternal equality of man. For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We had seen little men artificially held up in high places, and great men artificially held down in low places, and our own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should henceforth have equal liberty to find his own level. By this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to true aristocracy, saying, 'Let the best man win, whoever he is.' That is America's word. That is true democracy." Believing this so strongly, is it any wonder that the character of the Virginian was created?
As for Miss Mary Stark Wood of Bennington, Vermont, who calls herself spinster at age 20, she is a woman ahead of her time. Many have been created in Mary's image, but she is the original. Intelligent, independent, adventurous, full of pluck and, yes, pretty, she sets off to teach school in Bear Creek, Wyoming, to get away from family pressure to wed an unwanted suitor, and probably to see more of the world. An acquaintance and correspondent of Miss Wood's, Mrs. Balaam, a Bear Creek resident, wrote and told the young woman of the teaching position. Mary accepts, and as it happens, the Virginian is the first to meet her upon her arrival. He actually rescues her, as the primitive stagecoach she has been traveling in is mired-down in a creek - the driver drunk and quite irresponsible. She is later embarrassed, remembering how tightly she clung to the cowboy, in fright, not out of flirtatiousness. He, however, cannot get her out of his mind. This is so much more than a romance novel, although there is romance aplenty, of both the classical nature and the kind between a man courting a woman.
The Virginian's bete noir is an evil character named Trampas. The two clash throughout the tale until the final showdown. One of the books classic lines has our hero responding to Trampas after a nasty insult, "When you call me that, smile." He is also betrayed by a trusted friend who becomes corrupt out of greed and weakness. Law and order had not arrived in Wyoming Territory and it was up to individuals to maintain a civil society. Mary Wood calls this taking the law into one's own hands, or vigilantism. This issue becomes a bone of contention between herself and the Virginian.
Owen Wister imbues his characters, especially the Virginian and Mary, with a remarkable sense of depth. Their relationship, as well as his relationship with his old friend Steve, are depicted with particular poignancy. The initial reserve between Mary and her suitor is normal for the period. However, the sexual tension between them is palpable. Graphic love scenes are not necessary here. The author does more with a kiss and an embrace than many modern writers accomplish with all their erotica. There is some terrific humor also. I found Emily, the hen, to be one of the most original animals in fiction and absolutely hilarious. Wister's vivid passages describing the Wyoming wilderness are extraordinary, making it easy for one to visualize the gorgeous landscapes. The pace is somewhat slow at times. However, I did not find the narrative at all tedious. Time passed more slowly back then and things took longer to accomplish for obvious reasons. This difference is demonstrated in the way the tale is told.
"The Virginian" was voted by the Western American Writers in 1977 as the greatest western novel of all time. Whether it is or isn't is debatable, but I really enjoyed it. Highly recommend.
11 Comment| 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 June 2012
A book that I first read in my teens (and nothing like the television series!), this is one that I regularily revisit. The writer has given a far truer picture of mid-western life at the time than most 'westerns' and one can sense the commonality of rural life, in whatever country you come from, in the tales of the country dances, school life and relationships within a small community. enjoy!
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 November 2011
With nearly a million books to choose from, you come across many stinkers. Every so often though, you stumble upon one that you want to shout about, that you want everyone to read. This is one of the best ones. So read it.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 July 2007
Wow, this was so good; I could not put it down. The Virginian is the most incredible, honest, honorable, handsome (sigh) hero to come along the pike in a long long time. And what a scamp, LOL at his plot to switch the babies (clothes and all) around, so that the parents took home the wrong kids, had to come back to the Judge's ranch, leaving Molly the new teacher alone for him to call on!

Lots of love, laughter and excitement as the Virginian falls for the new teacher from the East, rounds up cattle rustlers and vanquishes the bad guys. The author's prose was glorious, although rather dense (for lack of a better word); it reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne. You really have to pay attention and don't let your mind wander or you will end up backtracking so you don't miss any of the story. The author's descriptions of the Wyoming countryside, and most especially the Tetons, were wonderful and I felt like I was right there.

Truly one of the best yarns I have ever read, with a nail biting finish during the final showdown with the bad guy, as Molly has to reconcile herself as to what is more important, her east coast sense of righteousness or her love for her man. Highly recommended.
0Comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 April 2016
One of the classics which I missed when I was younger and glad I did as I loved it now. The writing is superb, there are some really funny passages but above all it gives the reader real insight into life int e Wild West. And very romantic too.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 February 2014
I first read this many years ago and have searched since to find my own copy. Classic tales are always worth re-reading.
This copy is in good condition and was very fairly priced.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 June 2014
Superb read. The definitive high quality western. I guess the themes covered on this novel are what all western screenplays were based on
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 10 August 2015
high lights of the series.worth a look .worth buying.w lester.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 December 2012
I'm sadly at odds here with other reviewers, who write with great enthusiasm, nay with something approaching awe of this novel. Yes, it must be taken into account when the book was written, but I feel that in invoking Jane Austen, George Eliot and Dickens that particular reviewer falls into a trap of his/her making. Wister is simply not a novelist of that stature. He has written a romance, underpinned by a rather pretentious introduction, and at that level the novel succeeds to a degree. A female reader may indeed swoon at the idealised Virginian, but we are not talking chick lit here.

Wister has done his homework as far as the historical background is concerned and this lends the story a certain weight and authenticity. However, some of the writing is self-consciously literary of the worst kind and sentimentality oozes throughout, most particularly via the dewey-eyed eastern narrator. I was not expecting Cormac McCarthy, nor even Larry McMurtry, but compared with say "Shane" for example, this seems to me portentous and far less successful. As a hymn to the old west and the cowboy it has its charms but let's not pretend that this is a literary masterpiece. That would be an insult to the writers above not to mention Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway and others.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Need customer service? Click here