The American West

The American West

Length: 1215 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The story of the American West is still being told today even though most of historic events of the Wild West happened over more than a century ago. In movies, novels, television, and more ways stories of the old west are still being retold, reenacted, and replayed to relive the events of the once so wild and untamed land of the west that so many now fantasize about. After reading about the old west and watching early westerns it is amazing how much Hollywood still glorifies the history and myth of the old west. It may not be directly obvious to every one, but if you look closely there is always a hint of the Western mentality such as honor, justice, romance, drama, and violence. The most interesting thing about the Old West is the fact that history and myth have a very close relationship together in telling the story of the West.
The relationship between history and myth in the story of the West go hand and hand with each other for the most part. Why? The myth of the West came around just as the history of the West was happening. So a lot of history was often though of as myth and a lot myths were often thought of as actual history. For example, Buffalo Bill was extremely important to the West because he was mythical and historical figure at the same time. There were myths about him that were actually true and there were also myths about him that were made up he made them true. Author Lee Clark Mitchell states in his book, that some writers who wrote westerns such as Stephen Crane confronted "the intersection of history and fiction, fact and legend, without in the end appealing to either at the expense of the other." Also, "refusing to acknowledge that legends are more interesting than history (art, that is, surpassing life); Crane's stories at the same time resist any simple equation of the legendary with the fact itself (art matching life)" (Mitchell).
The cowboys of the frontier have long captured the imagination of the American public. Americans, faced with the reality of an increasingly industrialized society, love the image of a man living out in the wilderness fending for himself against the dangers of the unknown. By the end of the 19th century there were few renegade Indians left in the country and the vast expanse of open land to the west of the Mississippi was rapidly filling with settlers.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The American West." 17 Nov 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The American West Essay

- The story of the American West is still being told today even though most of historic events of the Wild West happened over more than a century ago. In movies, novels, television, and more ways stories of the old west are still being retold, reenacted, and replayed to relive the events of the once so wild and untamed land of the west that so many now fantasize about. After reading about the old west and watching early westerns it is amazing how much Hollywood still glorifies the history and myth of the old west....   [tags: US History West Western]

Free Essays
1215 words (3.5 pages)

Essay on West Point And The American Revolutionary War

- During the Civil War, a young nation was divided. Families were torn apart, brothers fighting brothers. There was no neutral ground. Everything was split, including the United States Military Academy. Previous classmates at West Point, bound together by principles and virtues would now face the inconceivable: fight each other in battle. The history of West Point leads back to the American Revolutionary War. West Point was a key fort on the west bank of the Hudson River. It was considered to be the most strategic location in America, but was sold away to the British by Benedict Arnold, a notorious traitor....   [tags: American Civil War, Robert E. Lee]

Research Papers
1740 words (5 pages)

Contested Plains by Elliot West Essay

- There are many ways in which we can view the history of the American West. One view is the popular story of Cowboys and Indians. It is a grand story filled with adventure, excitement and gold. Another perspective is one of the Native Plains Indians and the rich histories that spanned thousands of years before white discovery and settlement. Elliot West’s book, Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado, offers a view into both of these worlds. West shows how the histories of both nations intertwine, relate and clash all while dealing with complex geological and environmental challenges....   [tags: american west, indians, great plains]

Research Papers
1191 words (3.4 pages)

The American West: A Land of Opportunity Essay

- After the Civil War, Americans abandoned the sectional emphasis caused by slavery and developed a national focus. During the period from 1865-1890, Americans completed the settlement of the West. For the farmers and ranchers, the American West was a land of opportunity because land was cheap and the Homestead Act provided land to farmers, including immigrants and blacks, in order to grow crops, raise cattle and make a profit. The American West was also seen as a land of opportunity for miners due to the gold and silver rush in the far west which they believed would make them rich....   [tags: history ot the United States]

Research Papers
637 words (1.8 pages)

The Extension of Slavery Into the American West Essay

- The prospect of slavery’s extension into the American West most certainly shaped sectional politics by inflaming grievances and tensions, and sparking heated and occasionally violent protests, yet compromise sometimes was reached – occasionally among strange political bedfellows – in the interest of holding off the specter of civil war. This paper will focus on the issues surrounding the possible extension of slavery into the following areas: the Missouri Territory and the Louisiana Purchase in general, Texas (annexation), the Oregon Territory, California (annexation), Nebraska (unorganized), and the Kansas Territory....   [tags: U.S. History ]

Research Papers
1670 words (4.8 pages)

Portrayals of the American West Essay example

- Portrayals of the West It usually begins with an empty, grimy street, a vast silence broken only by the creak of a gently swinging wooden saloon sign; a lone figure with a cowboy hat placed low over his eyes, hand positioned just over the handle of his gun, walks slowly into view. Another dark, frightening figure emerges from the shadows on the other end of the street. A classic Western confrontation scene is about to be played out – an act so common that it has often been spoofed, yet still remains a custom which seldom fails in grabbing hold of its audience....   [tags: western film genre]

Research Papers
731 words (2.1 pages)

Essay The Subjugation Of The American West

- Manifest Destiny. This simple phrase enraptured the United States during the late 1800’s, and came to symbolize an era of westward expansion through numerous powerful entities. The expansion can be inspected though many different contextual lenses, but if examined among the larger histories of the United States, this movement can be classified as one of the most influential developments of the post-Civil War period. While very influential to the larger part of American history, the seemingly barbaric methods that were used conquer the western lands and their peoples took physical and economical forms that proved to be a plague upon the West....   [tags: American History]

Research Papers
1214 words (3.5 pages)

The Wild, Wild West Essay

- The Wild, Wild West The central theme of Stephen Crane 's The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky is the West 's loss of its traditional rough-hewn character due to the steady encroachment of Eastern Culture (and soft Eastern attitudes). In that sense the most important aspects of setting are the train that is taking Jack and his new bride back to Yellow Sky, and the town itself, which itself has already begun to symbolizes those changes. The setting actually serves two purposes, initially to establish a sense of Eastern style and then to knock it down by contrast with the authenticity of the West....   [tags: American Old West, Cowboy, Western United States]

Research Papers
791 words (2.3 pages)

Essay The American Dream Out West

- America, the land of opportunity, a country that stretches out from sea to shining sea. Except what if America stayed in the boundaries; the appalachian mountains east. Would America be the country it is and has been for the last 100 years. Westward expansion is why America is as unique and diverse as it is today; it gave the hope of opportunity to thousands of Americans and is why the American dream or “Manifest Destiny” remains a reality even today. Westward expansion encouraged by Lewis and Clark which led to the Oregon Trail and was later fuled by the California gold rush illustrates the American dream as people took a risk leaving the east to seek new opportunities and/or wealth in the...   [tags: Lewis & Clark, CA Gold Rush]

Research Papers
1491 words (4.3 pages)

Essay about American Work of Benjamin West

- In “American Work of Benjamin West” William Sawitzky argues that “When today the bulk of his work fails to stir our imagination and to satisfy us aesthetically, it is owing to the fact that emotionally and artistically he was incapable of touching great heights or depths and even at best remained a second rate technician”. This paper will try to refute this claim by analyzing the emotional intensity and break away from tradition in West’s works, using formal analysis of Benjamin West’s Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus....   [tags: Art Analysis, History]

Research Papers
989 words (2.8 pages)

Cowboys represented a major part of the frontier spirit and Americans were eager to keep the romanticism of the west alive. Throughout the 20th century, western-themed movies and books have been extremely popular. The cowboys of the west, while realistically a minor part of United States history, have developed into an integral part of American culture. Their popularity is a result of the independent nature they represent and the disappearing wilderness they inhabited.
The Cowboy lifestyle was first presented as entertainment by "Buffalo" Bill Cody. His Wild West Show was remarkably successful across the country in the late 1800's. Cody's affinity for drama and the limelight spurred him to conceive the fantastic world of the Wild West Show. The immensity of the show and the exaggerated dramas of life on the frontier entrenched the images of the Wild West in the minds of Americans and the rest of the world during the shows existence. Perpetual stereotypes and images of the west such as the cowboys and Indians battle, the circular stagecoach camp, and the buffalo hunt originated under Cody's staging and direction (Warren). Cody himself was born in a log cabin in Iowa and played important roles in every major moment in westward expansion, including the Pony Express, the Gold Rush, the building of the railroads, and cattle herding on the plains. Cody's sensationalistic portrayal of the West spread the allure of the frontier "from California to New York, and from London to Rome" (Warren). "Buffalo" Bill Cody's Wild West Show set the stage for thousands of western-themed books and movies.
Why does myth often triumph over history in popular culture? The illusion of myth is some times more desirable than actual history or fact. One of thing about movies, novels, television and theater, is that is does not have to be accurate or true in order to be real. It may be based off of fact or historic settings, but it does not have to follow every little detail to the point. For example, in the movie My Dear Clementine, it does have some truth to what actually happened in life such as Doc Holiday being sick with Tuberculosis. Although the movie does have some fiction to it also, the age of Wyatt's little brother James is changed from what it actually is to make him appear younger and have more of sympathy for Wyatt because his brother was so young when he was murdered.
Why might some Americans feel threatened by history? The history of the world has shown that not everything is always just nice and simple about history. Violence, wars, battles, gunfights, robberies, savage killings, thieves, and more were part of actually history of the west. People might feel threaten by the true facts of history because it makes them face the reality of the world. Where as the imagination can run free with myths and fiction of the old west to escape reality. As the author Limerick states in her book, "In the popular imagination, the reality of conquest dissolved into stereotypes of noble savages and noble pioneers struggling quaintly in the wilderness. These adventures seemed to have no bearing on the complex realities of the twentieth-century America. In western paintings, novels, movies, and television shows, those stereotypes were valued precisely because they offered an escape from modern troubles."
In conclusion, the legend of the Old West is still alive today. Hollywood still makes movies, television shows, and novels about the Old West. Even other movies, television shows, and novels may not be about the West, but hold the same principles as most cowboy movies do. I did not notice it before, but know I can see the connection between Western and Sci-Fi films, such as Star Wars. Now I can see that Luke Skywalker is just a cowboy in outer space. I also have noticed how many other movies have made connection to old western films, such as Shane and the movie The Negotiator. In the movie Kevin Spacey's character Lt. Chris Sabian, talks to Samuel L Jackson's character Lt. Danny Roman about the movie Shane and how Shane is leaving the town at the end of the movie. They argue about if Shane dies in the end or if he rides off to live another day because he looks like he is slumped over on his horse. Which after watching the movie I myself could not figure out whether or not he is dying or if he just rides off to live the rest of his life as a gunfighter some where else.
Return to