Book Analysis On Moral Life And Conflict On The Book The Virginian Term Paper


Virginian Written in 1902, Owen Wister's The Virginian is often seen as the progenitor of the Great American Western. Like the genre pieces that followed, The Virginian sets up a quest for justice and sets large cattle ranchers and smaller family businessmen. Frontier justice is meted out, often reluctantly, in lynchings carried out by the hero, the unnamed Virginian, who serves as the prototype for many western characters to follow -- a rugged man who speaks few words and lets his actions speak for themselves. The Virginian is a deeply moral man who tries to emulate God, seek out justice even when it is distasteful, and defend himself and his honor. His moral center is in place throughout the novel and he always tries to live out these virtues.

In Wister's idealized version of the West, where working on a cattle ranch apparently involves very little physical labor, the Virginian believes strongly in playing fair. This is evident when he describes how he views God's interaction with humanity. "He plays a square game with us," the Virginian. The man tries to do live up to this as his own moral code, despite the realities that life throws at him....


When he is forced to preside of the hanging of his good friend Steve, who was convicted of castle rustling, he does so reluctantly and sadness. But he knows it is morally justified. "You leave other folks' cattle alone, or you take the consequences, and it was all known to Steve from the start," he says (174).
The Virginian's inevitable morality is also evident in his relationship with Molly and the fact that other people in the books who are well-respected vouch for him, including Sarah Bell and her husband Sam. Sarah insisted that she "found nothing to object to in the Virginian. (499). She told Molly exactly that, and Sarah's husband, Sam, told Molly that she was in luck to have him. This despite the fact that his manners didn't at first live up to her standards (men with manners asked to be introduced to a lady before they ask her to dance). She perseverates throughout the book -- and certainly his romantic looks and reputation give her doubts as to his moral certitude, but he insists that he has "played square" with her, and she eventually relents. The Judge even takes partial responsibility for the death of Steve in order to prove the moral…

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