The figure of the cowboy is prominent, not only in America’s history, but also in contemporary society. The cowboy has always been regarded as the epitome of freedom, machismo and individuality, and his character maintains a certain romantic quality about it. Riding the range with his trusty horse, forging the frontier, and exposing himself to the mercy of the wilderness, the cowboy lives for himself alone and yet he lives the life about which the rest of society can only fantasize. The cowboy, fearless hero of the West, has become a cultural icon. One literary critic, Sara Spurgeon, sums up the cowboy fantasy by saying that:
the figure of the cowboy personifies America’s most cherished myths--combining ideas of American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, rugged individualism, frontier democracy, and communion with and conquest of the natural world…The icon of the sacred cowboy is one of our potent national fantasies, viable in everything from blue jeans to car commercials to popular films. (79)
The question that remains, then, is why the cowboy figure is so appealing. How has he survived in the age of industrialization and technology? Perhaps the cowboy represents what is pure and untamed, and is a model on which to base a longing for a purer time in history and a more authentic, animalistic, and natural existence in the world.
As Spurgeon points out, the cowboy figure is most often associated with freedom, self-reliance, and individualism. These virtues are the main components of the American dream; they are the things that every American supposedly aspires toward. The space of the cowboy is not defined by borders or fences, but in fact it is defined by the absence of them; he is lord of...
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...nt day. The public seems quite content to ignore the historical facts and focus on the fantasy, using the cowboy as a romantic foundation on which to project their longings and innermost desires.
Bibliography and Works Cited
Jarrett, Robert L. Cormac McCarthy. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Lambert, Neal E. “Freedom and the American Cowboy.” Brigham Young University Studies 8 (1967): 61-71.
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian. New York: Vintage International, 1992.
Pearson, Demetrius W., & C. Allen Haney. “The Rodeo Cowboy as an American Icon: The Perceived Social and Cultural Significance.” Journal of American Culture. Bowling Green: Winter 22, 4 (1999): 17-21.
Spurgeon, Sara L. “‘Pledged in Blood’: Truth and Redemption in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.” Cormac McCarthy. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002. 79-94.
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