Women in Early Westerns

analytical Essay
5840 words
5840 words

Westerns connote images of dirt, dust, guns, horses, cowboys and heroes: physically strong, iron-willed, independent, resourceful, quick-witted men. Although the modern Western (the writings of Louise L’Amour, Zane Grey and the numerous films starring John Wayne, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry) seems to focus on this ideal hero, the genre actually also provides women with strong, self-reliant, active roles. In fact, many texts that precede the typical modern Western had females as the main characters. However, the role of the heroine still differs from that of the hero; the role does not defeminize women but gives them depth as characters. These women still retain their femininity and domesticity, but they also rescue those around them, take care of themselves, and have a relationship with the land. The Girl of the Golden West, a play written by David Belasco around 1905, perfectly demonstrates this idea. The heroine, the Girl, speaks frankly, carries a gun, takes care of herself, protects the miners’ money, and actually rescues the villain. At the same time, she comforts her boys, desires to recreate the home she remembers, and, epitomizing female virtue, converts the road agent with her love. Other earlier works also provide examples of active, strong women. These earlier works laid a foundation and created a tradition from which the modern-day Western evolved. The tradition began in the earliest days of the colonies with the captivity narratives and eventually blossomed into stories such as The Girl of the Golden West, undoubtedly a Western with a heroine. In her book, West of Everything, Jane Tompkins discusses the essential elements that define the genre. From her discussion, one can extract a working definition: the setting, th... ... middle of paper ... ...of North Carolina Press, 1984. Rowlandson, Mary. A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.In Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives. Ed. Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Sedgwick, Catharine Maria. Hope Leslie; or, Early Times in the Massachusetts. Ed. Mary Kelley. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987. Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1942. Southworth, E.D.E.N. The Hidden Hand or, Capitola the Madcap. Ed. Joanne Dobson. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998. Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly. Ed. Ann Douglas. New York: Penguin, 1981. Tompkins, Jane. West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how westerns connote images of dirt, dust, guns, horses, cowboys, and heroes, but the genre also provides women with strong, self-reliant, active roles. the girl of the golden west, written by david belasco, demonstrates this idea.
  • Analyzes how jane tompkins discusses the essential elements that define the genre in her book, west of everything.
  • Analyzes how mary rowlandson's first captivity narratives were genuine, first-person accounts of actual ordeals that developed as a natural, spontaneous product of the new world experience.
  • Describes how mary rowlandson lost her family, status, and security after being taken captive by the indians.
  • Describes how the poor woman faced the challenges of the wilderness, starvation, and her captors' temperament. she was stripped to absolute poverty from relative prosperity.
  • Analyzes how mary rowlandson's will and courage were so strong that she offered hope and support to the other captives despite her broken heart.
  • Analyzes how mary rowlandson learns to adapt and uses her skills to survive in captivity. her desire to live proved stronger than her repulsion for such things as horse liver or boiled horse feet.
  • Analyzes how mary rowlandson acquires equality with her captors by inviting her master and mistress to dinner. she asserts her independence by talking back.
  • Analyzes how mary rowlandson's strength as a survivor pervades the text and becomes more visible as the time passes.
  • Analyzes how catharine maria sedgwick, who succeeded mary rowlandson, published hope leslie, a novel that addressed the puritans subjugation of the indigenous population.
  • Analyzes how stowe's uncle tom’s cabin contains incidents that embody the heroic spirit carried forth from the captivity narratives and employ the same elements.
  • Analyzes how eliza harris rescues her son, harry, from the slave traders by escaping in the night, fleeing by foot, and crossing the ohio river in full flood.
  • Analyzes how eliza's motherly nature and care for others distinguish her character and give rise to her heroism.
  • Analyzes how southworth's novel, the hidden hand or capitola the madcap, has a strong, independent female and relies upon the same spirit and elements seen in the western.
  • Analyzes how cap's repeated forthright, indignant speeches and her fearless deeds establish her heroine status.
  • Analyzes how cap accomplishes what others cannot with her spirit intact and the sense that her feat hardly challenged her.
  • Analyzes how cap, like other heroines, acts like a woman. she rescues clara, captures black donald, and defends her own honor.
  • Analyzes how cap is more than a simple hero, she is also our heroine. she has been instructed by mrs. condiment in the mysteries of cutting and basting, back-stitching and felling.
  • Analyzes how southworth's text creates excitement and engages the reader through this spirit embodied in the heroine.
  • Analyzes how the girl of the golden west fits the definition given for a western, except that the hero is female.
  • Analyzes how the girl's pinto provides companionship and a way for her to get "all over the country" (southworth 215), but the audience never sees horses or anyone on horses.
  • Analyzes how the girl has a home on the frontier and the character expected of the hero, while possessing the traditional femininity and domesticity of an female character.
  • Analyzes how belasco adds depth to the girl's heroism by maintaining her femininity and having her occupy a feminine sphere.
  • Analyzes how the girl occupies a domestic sphere, but her den mother is different from the typical domestic scene. she helps her boys better themselves through her academy and helps them write letters to their families.
  • Analyzes how the modern western genre explores living in the west. the real realities of the west and life on the frontier do not matter as much as the potential to create heroes, legends and heroines.
  • Opines that if you have a house and baby of your own, and no one to tend to nyther than yourself, that's when the bread burns in the oven and the tea-kettle is boiling over.
  • Analyzes how southworth uses the idea of the west and her imagination to empower her heroines and engage the reader.
  • Analyzes how the sex of female authors affects the role of the heroine in western literature.
  • Analyzes the power of the western genre to captivate readers and transport them to another life and another place where the challenges are different and much more interesting than our typical day
  • Describes belasco, david, "the girl of the golden west." american melodrama. ed. daniel c. gerould.
  • Explains that kolodny, annette, the land before her: fantasy and experience of the american frontiers, 1630-1860.
  • Describes rowlandson's true history of the captivity and restoration of mrs. mary.
  • Describes sedgwick, catharine maria, hope leslie, or, early times in the massachusetts.
  • Explains slotkin, richard, regeneration through violence: the mythology of the american frontier, 1600-1860.
  • States that southworth, e.d.e.n., the hidden hand or, capitola the madcap.
  • Explains stowe, harriet beecher, uncle tom’s cabin or, life among the lowly.
  • Describes tompkins, jane, west of everything: the inner life of westerns.
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