The Virginian

The Virginian

3.9 96
by Owen Wister, Westbroch
     
 

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In the untamed West, pioneers came to test their fortunes -- and their wills. The Wyoming territory was a harsh, unforgiving land, with its own unwritten code of honor by which men lived and died. Into this rough landscape rides the Virginian, a solitary man whose unbending will is his only guide through life. The Virginian's unwavering beliefs in right and wrong are

Overview

In the untamed West, pioneers came to test their fortunes -- and their wills. The Wyoming territory was a harsh, unforgiving land, with its own unwritten code of honor by which men lived and died. Into this rough landscape rides the Virginian, a solitary man whose unbending will is his only guide through life. The Virginian's unwavering beliefs in right and wrong are soon tested as he tries to prove his love for a woman who cannot accept his sense of justice; at the same time, a betrayal by his most trusted friend forces him to fight against the corruption that rules the land.

Still as exciting and meaningful as it was when first published one hundred years ago, Owen Wister's epic tale of a man caught between his love for a woman and his quest for justice exemplifies one of the most significant and enduring themes in all of American literature. With remarkable character depth and vivid passages, The Virginian stands not only as the first great novel of American Western literature, but as a testament to the eternal struggle between good and evil in humanity. With an engaging new introduction by Gary Scharnhorst, professor of English at the University of New Mexico, this volume is an indispensable addition to the library of American Western literature.

Editorial Reviews

A full-cast dramatization keeps this Western story fast-paced and involving. Set in Wyoming, this tells of a Southerner who is peaceful, fair, and strong - but lacking in romance. Enter a beautiful Eastern woman to complete his life. The dramatic recording style makes for a wonderful presentation filled with the action and defects of an old-time radio show, but with modern players (the St. Charles Players).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780451512475
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
12/04/1979
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Enter the Man

Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both men and women, to the window; and therefore I rose and crossed the car to see what it was. I saw near the track an enclosure, and round it some laughing men, and inside it some whirling dust, and amid the dust some horses, plunging, huddling, and dodging. They were cow ponies in a corral, and one of them would not be caught, no matter who threw the rope. We had plenty of time to watch this sport, for our train had stopped that the engine might take water at the tank before it pulled us up beside the station platform of Medicine Bow.1 We were also six hours late, and starving for entertainment. The pony in the corral was wise, and rapid of limb. Have you seen a skilful boxer watch his antagonist with a quiet, incessant eye? Such an eye as this did the pony keep upon whatever man took the rope. The man might pretend to look at the weather, which was fine; or he might affect earnest conversation with a bystander: it was bootless. The pony saw through it. No feint hoodwinked him. This animal was thoroughly a man of the world. His undistracted eye stayed fixed upon the dissembling foe, and the gravity of his horse-expression made the matter one of high comedy. Then the rope would sail out at him, but he was already elsewhere; and if horses laugh, gayety must have abounded in that corral. Sometimes the pony took a turn alone; next he had slid in a flash among his brothers, and the whole of them like a school of playful fish whipped round the corral, kicking up the fine dust, and (I take it) roaring with laughter. Through the window-glass of our Pullman2 the thud of their mischievous hoofs reached us, and the strong, humorous curses of the cow-boys. Then for the first time I noticed a man who sat on the high gate of the corral, looking on. For he now climbed down with the undulations of a tiger, smooth and easy, as if his muscles flowed beneath his skin. The others had all visibly whirled the rope, some of them even shoulder high. I did not see his arm lift or move. He appeared to hold the rope down low, by his leg. But like a sudden snake I saw the noose go out its length and fall true; and the thing was done. As the captured pony walked in with a sweet, church-door expression, our train moved slowly on to the station, and a passenger remarked, "That man knows his business."

But the passenger's dissertation upon roping I was obliged to lose, for Medicine Bow was my station. I bade my fellow-travellers good-by, and descended, a stranger, into the great cattle land. And here in less than ten minutes I learned news which made me feel a stranger indeed.

My baggage was lost; it had not come on my train; it was adrift somewhere back in the two thousand miles that lay behind me. And by way of comfort, the baggage-man remarked that passengers often got astray from their trunks, but the trunks mostly found them after a while. Having offered me this encouragement, he turned whistling to his affairs and left me planted in the baggage-room at Medicine Bow. I stood deserted among crates and boxes, blankly holding my check, furious and forlorn. I stared out through the door at the sky and the plains; but I did not see the antelope shining among the sage-brush, nor the great sunset light of Wyoming. Annoyance blinded my eyes to all things save my grievance: I saw only a lost trunk. And I was muttering half-aloud, "What a forsaken hole this is!" when suddenly from outside on the platform came a slow voice: --

"Off to get married again? Oh, don't!"

The voice was Southern and gentle and drawling; and a second voice came in immediate answer, cracked and querulous: --

"It ain't again. Who says it's again? Who told you, anyway?"

And the first voice responded caressingly: --

"Why, your Sunday clothes told me, Uncle Hughey. They are speakin' mighty loud o' nuptials."

"You don't worry me!" snapped Uncle Hughey, with shrill heat.

And the other gently continued, "Ain't them gloves the same yu' wore to your last weddin'?"

"You don't worry me! You don't worry me!" now screamed Uncle Hughey.

Already I had forgotten my trunk; care had left me; I was aware of the sunset, and had no desire but for more of this conversation. For it resembled none that I had heard in my life so far. I stepped to the door and looked out upon the station platform.

Lounging there at ease against the wall was a slim young giant, more beautiful than pictures. His broad, soft hat was pushed back; a loose-knotted, dull-scarlet handkerchief sagged from his throat; and one casual thumb was hooked in the cartridge-belt that slanted across his hips. He had plainly come many miles from somewhere across the vast horizon, as the dust upon him showed. His boots were white with it. His overalls were gray with it. The weather-beaten bloom of his face shone through it duskily, as the ripe peaches look upon their trees in a dry season. But no dinginess of travel or shabbiness of attire could tarnish the splendor that radiated from his youth and strength. The old man upon whose temper his remarks were doing such deadly work was combed and curried to a finish, a bridegroom swept and garnished; but alas for age! Had I been the bride, I should have taken the giant, dust and all.

He had by no means done with the old man.

"Why, yu've hung weddin' gyarments on every limb!" he now drawled, with admiration. "Who is the lucky lady this trip?"

The old man seemed to vibrate. "Tell you there ain't been no other! Call me a Mormon,3 would you?"

"Why, that -- "

"Call me a Mormon? Then name some of my wives. Name two. Name one. Dare you!"

" -- that Laramie wido' promised you -- "

"Shucks!"

" -- only her docter suddenly ordered Southern climate and -- "

"Shucks! You're a false alarm."

" -- so nothing but her lungs came between you. And next you'd most got united with Cattle Kate, only -- "

"Tell you you're a false alarm!"

" -- only she got hung."

"Where's the wives in all this? Show the wives! Come now!"

"That corn-fed biscuit-shooter4 at Rawlins yu' gave the canary -- "

"Never married her. Never did marry -- "

"But yu' come so near, uncle! She was the one left yu' that letter explaining how she'd got married to a young cyard-player the very day before her ceremony with you was due, and -- "

"Oh, you're nothing; you're a kid; you don't amount to -- "

" -- and how she'd never, never forget to feed the canary."

"This country's getting full of kids," stated the old man, witheringly. "It's doomed." This crushing assertion plainly satisfied him. And he blinked his eyes with renewed anticipation. His tall tormentor continued with a face of unchanging gravity, and a voice of gentle solicitude: --

"How is the health of that unfortunate -- "

"That's right! Pour your insults! Pour 'em on a sick, afflicted woman!" The eyes blinked with combative relish.

"Insults? Oh, no. Uncle Hughey!"

"That's all right! Insults goes!"

"Why, I was mighty relieved when she began to recover her mem'ry. Las' time I heard, they told me she'd got it pretty near all back. Remembered her father, and her mother, and her sisters and brothers, and her friends, and her happy childhood, and all her doin's except only your face. The boys was bettin' she'd get that far too, give her time. But I reckon afteh such a turrable sickness as she had, that would be expectin' most too much."

At this Uncle Hughey jerked out a small parcel. "Shows how much you know!" he cackled. "There! See that! That's my ring she sent me back, being too unstrung for marriage. So she don't remember me, don't she? Ha-ha! Always said you were a false alarm."

The Southerner put more anxiety into his tone. "And so you're a-takin' the ring right on to the next one!" he exclaimed. "Oh, don't go to get married again, Uncle Hughey! What's the use o' being married?"

"What's the use?" echoed the bridegroom, with scorn. "Hm! When you grow up you'll think different."

"Course I expect to think different when my age is different. I'm havin' the thoughts proper to twenty-four, and you're havin' the thoughts proper to sixty."

"Fifty!" shrieked Uncle Hughey, jumping in the air.

The Southerner took a tone of self-reproach. "Now, how could I forget you was fifty," he murmured, "when you have been telling it to the boys so careful for the last ten years!"

Have you ever seen a cockatoo -- the white kind with the top-knot -- enraged by insult? The bird erects every available feather upon its person. So did Uncle Hughey seem to swell, clothes, mustache, and woolly white beard; and without further speech he took himself on board the East-bound train, which now arrived from its siding in time to deliver him.

Yet this was not why he had not gone away before. At any time he could have escaped into the baggage-room or withdrawn to a dignified distance until his train should come up. But the old man had evidently got a sort of joy from this teasing. He had reached that inevitable age when we are tickled to be linked with affairs of gallantry, no matter how.

With him now the East-bound departed slowly into that distance whence I had come. I stared after it as it went its way to the far shores of civilization. It grew small in the unending gulf of space, until all sign of its presence was gone save a faint skein of smoke against the evening sky. And now my lost trunk came back into my thoughts, and Medicine Bow seemed a lonely spot. A sort of ship had left me marooned in a foreign ocean; the Pullman was comfortably steaming home to port, while I -- how was I to find Judge Henry's ranch? Where in this unfeatured wilderness was Sunk Creek? No creek or any water at all flowed here that I could perceive. My host had written he should meet me at the station and drive me to his ranch. This was all that I knew. He was not here. The baggage-man had not seen him lately. The ranch was almost certain to be too far to walk to to-night. My trunk -- I discovered myself still staring dolefully after the vanished East-bound; and at the same instant I became aware that the tall man was looking gravely at me, -- as gravely as he had looked at Uncle Hughey throughout their remarkable conversation.

To see his eye thus fixing me and his thumb still hooked in his cartridge-belt, certain tales of travellers from these parts forced themselves disquietingly into my recollection. Now that Uncle Hughey was gone, was I to take his place and be, for instance, invited to dance on the platform to the music of shots nicely aimed?

"I reckon I am looking for you, seh," the tall man now observed.

Copyright © 1902 by The Macmillan Company

Meet the Author

Owen Wister (July 14, 1860 - July 21, 1938) was an American writer and "father" of western fiction. Wister began his literary work in 1891. He had spent several summers out in the American West, making his first trip to Wyoming in 1885. Like his friend Teddy Roosevelt, Wister was fascinated with the culture, lore and terrain of the region. On an 1893 visit to Yellowstone, Wister met the western artist Frederic Remington who remained a lifelong friend. When he started writing, he naturally inclined towards fiction set on the western frontier. Wister's most famous work remains the 1902 novel The Virginian, the loosely constructed story of a cowboy who is a natural aristocrat, set against a highly mythologized version of the Johnson County War and taking the side of the large land owners. This is widely regarded as being the first cowboy novel and was reprinted fourteen times in eight months. The book was written in the library of The Philadelphia Club, where Wister was a member, and is dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt.

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The Virginian 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was what made a western a western if this book was the originall bluprint of what a western was it has it. This book was amazing it has many great points great original sayings, the characters in here are original it has some good humor, you just get so taken with the story you cant just put it down. I give this book a high recommendation.
Blackbirrd More than 1 year ago
Until last summer, this was just one of those books I had on my 'bucket list'. I bought it and didn't start to read it until two months later. Then, I read it and then, I read it again, dog ear-ing pages that made sense, had notable descriptions, quotations, etc. The Virginian is a classic. Wister takes a long range introduction, as if he had a movie camera in the first few pages, describing what he saw from the train window as everyone noticed that distinctive cow-puncher who was able to corral the wild horse when others failed. And so we meet "The Virginian". The rest of the story unfolds, with fantastic descriptions of the landscape, segues of thought, opinion, politics, etc. For me, it brought the West alive, made me care about the characters and, yes, see how history repeats itself even today. Folks in the old West were concerned about pollution and clean air, just wonder what they would say if they saw our American landscape today. This novel introduced the new American hero and a new way of writing without the Jane Austen angst and insufferable hoity-toity innuendoes. No wonder it created a sensation. It's a great blueprint for aspiring writers as well: just try to write smoothly as omniscient, first person and third as well as Wister does without confusion. If I 'ain't' confused, you won't be. Hmmm, I should read it again . . . after the holidays! Yes, seh!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read if you have any interest in the way the west was settled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The basis for most western novels written since. "Good" cowboy with well defined sense of moarlity v. "Bad" cowboy trying to make his way taking what he thinks to be the easiest route. Good cowboy meets eastern school-marm who struggles with her eastern civilized morals vs. the western vigilante justice. Climax with good cowboy winning his battle with his antagonist AND wins the girl with his wholesome morals. Ebook version had several incidences of dropped pages or pages that had to be navigated to using "go to" function rather than simple page turning; frustrating but not insurmountable.
TheQuillPen More than 1 year ago
I must say I admire Owen Wister's restraint. Rather than ruining his novel with too much mindless action, Wister focuses on the more domestic aspects of life in the old West, incorporating his action scenes sparingly. However, I can't say I enjoyed this book as much as most of the other classics I have read. Unfortunately, Wister's story never really "gets off the ground" until probably the last fourth or fifth of the book; before then the story lags and is even incoherent in parts. The narrator known simply as "the tenderfoot" guides the reader through much of the story but occasionally drops out completely, which, though not necessarily a big problem, did strike me as strange. Wister originally wrote the stories that would become The Virginian as serials, or short stories in local newspapers, later combining them into a single volume and crafting a "novel." As a group of short stories, I could get into these--as a novel, not so much. Lest I sound too critical, the story does possess redeeming qualities, however. Wister develops the romance between the Virginian and Miss Wood in a superb manner, and he also interjects his own thoughts into the story on occasion (much like Tolstoy). His portrayal of Judge Henry, well-schooled in law, is marvelous, and he can be astoundingly funny in parts. Ultimately, however, the book, as a novel, falls a little flat. I'd rate this book a 4/9, if that gives you a better idea than the rather limited "five star" system.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
“The Virginian’s pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: ‘When you call me that, smile.’ And he looked at Trampas across the table.” This novel, the first true western that paved the way for other famous authors such as Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, covers a span of five years and chronicles the acquaintance of the unnamed author/narrator with a strong, silent stranger known only as “The Virginian,” a young man in his twenties who works on Judge Henry’s Shiloh Ranch at Sunk Creek in the Wyoming territory. The account begins when the narrator arrives in Medicine Bow, WY, around 1886, to visit Judge Henry and the Virginian is sent to escort him to Shiloh. During the succeeding years, the Virginian, who was born in old Virginia but had left home at age fourteen and come west, woos the pretty Miss Molly Stark Wood, who comes from Bennington, VT, to be the school teacher at Bear Creek, WY; is made foreman at Shiloh Ranch; and must deal with an ongoing enemy named Trampas, a roving cowboy who works for a while at Shiloh then turns to rustling. Will the Virginian win Miss Wood’s affection? What will happen to Trampas? When I was young and still living at home, I remember seeing a television show also entitled The Virginian (1962-1971), based on characters from this novel. It starred James Drury as the Virginian, Doug McClure as Trampas, and Lee J. Cobb as the Judge. However, the television series bore little resemblance to the plot of the book. The Virginian is an interesting story in which several subplots develop over time. There are numerous references to smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, gambling, and dancing. In addition to several instances in which “curses,” “oaths,” and “profanities” are mentioned, the “d” and “h” words occur a few times and the Lord’s name is occasionally taken in vain. The phrase “son of a -----“ is used as quoted (not spelled out). In fact, this is what Trampas had called the Virginian when the latter responded, “When you call me that, smile.” The nearly equivalent term “ba*t*ard” is found once (completely spelled out). Nathaniel Bluedorn recommended the book in Hand that Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children, but I would urge great caution with younger children unless done as a read aloud where the offending language could be easily edited out. Otherwise, it does present a good, balanced viewpoint of what young manhood should be, with both toughness when needed and gentleness when required.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE best treatment of masculinity I've ever read in fiction. Delightful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book in history class and loved it. It presents that mystery and excitement of the west that you genreally don't get from history books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although not fond of Westerns generally, I devoured this first as a pre-adolescent, in an unabridged, well-annotated version. That edition introduced objects and references that might otherwise have been lost on me--there is an enormous amount of history, and humor, here. The characters and subject matter are engaging, athough the pages of philosophical musings can be tedious.--Just skip them until you're ready for them. This work has given me a lifelong appreciation for the West when it was young, and a special interest in Wister's life and works--he saw the West firsthand. The Virginian is the template for all things 'Western' that came after it, and none has matched it. (I found a 100-year-old copy of its sister work, 'Lin McClean,' in a used bookstore. Aha!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is highly compelling and maintains an accurate account of the Western era. Each segmeant is incredibly enjoyable, and the language flows quite clearly. Conflict between the character's natural duty and pursuit of love, too, makes it all the more interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has the theme of the wildness and the loose morals that were present in the west during the years 1874-1890. The Virginian is sort of like a gypsy and an experienced traveller who has seen it all and is harden by it. This book shows that the west in those days was based on the survival of the fittest and a lack of caring for others. The Virginian out smarts them all and does get his own way by trickery and intellect.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is the original western written when the old west was still alive and kicking, and the virginian is like robin hood in cowboy incarnate! the plot is interesting and the characters are really complex. there are also funny parts that keep you reading. even wister's introduction is funny. 'when you call me that, smile!'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can anyone tell me the conflict between trampas and the virginian? How it started, escalates through the book, and is resolved? Also, what parts of the book can it be found?
obeythekitty More than 1 year ago
I was reading biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, and learned that Owen Wister was a lifelong friend of his from Harvard, so read this as an aside. it's nothing like the 60's TV show.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this the book that became a movie, or a tv show?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Go the extra dollar and get the $2.99 copy in my opinion. Okay just headings etc are lopped off.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Full of strange characters and spelling absurdities. Whoever did the scanning should be tarred and feathered.
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