The Virginian, by Owen Wister

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The Virginian

The cowboy hero, The Virginian, as portrayed in Owen Wister’s novel was the first of his kind and today is known as the stereotypical mythic cowboy figure which our view of the western frontier are based from. The Virginian was the first full length western novel apart from the short dime novels which marked the final stage in the evolution of the cowboy hero to a national icon. The Virginian was published in 1902 and at that time was wildly popular because of the settlement of the west. The story of the cowboy who had the skill and courage to take control of the untamed frontier enthralled people. The cowboy hero had a few distinguished qualities, he was a self-appointed vigilante, he had a very strict moral code, he had exceptional perception skills and he had the ability to adapt. Owen Wister’s The Virginian was the first to portray these qualities and really created a deeper cowboy character.

While the western frontier was still new and untamed, the western hero often took on the role of a vigilante. The vigilante’s role in the frontier was that of extralegal verve which was used to restrain criminal threats to the civil peace and opulence of a local community. Vigilantism was typical to the settler-state societies of the western frontier where the structures and powers of government were at first very feeble and weak. The typical cowboy hero had a willingness to use this extralegal verve. The Virginian demonstrated this throughout with his interactions with Trampas, most notably in the interactions leading up to the shoot out and during the shoot-out itself. “Others struggled with Trampas, and his bullet smashed the ceiling before they could drag the pistol from him… Yet the Virginian stood quiet by the...

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...nd a man of reserve against violence. Also as a man who will stand for the good of the community, protecting those who need protecting as the Vigilante of the western frontier. The Virginian was a true cowboy hero because he was a vigilante who followed his own moral code. The cowboy’s moral code was not dictated by the laws of society because he was an independent who was working to escape civilization. The Virginian was the first of the western heroes who gave the world someone to look unto as an example. He showed a very strong moral code which had a special responsibility to the protection and respect of women such as Molly. He also had a great many skills which gave him the realistic air that made the hero’s of the west so popular in the early 1900’s as the western frontier came to a close.

Works Cited

Wister, Owen. The Virginian. Penguin Books. 1902. Print.

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