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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
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September 2020: Other Books > [Poll Ballot] The Virginian by Owen Wister - 4 stars

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Joy D | 4196 comments The Virginian by Owen Wister - 4 stars - My Review

Published in 1902, this book is considered a seminal novel of the American west. Set in Wyoming Territory in the 1870’s and 1880’s, the book’s narrator is met at the railroad station by the Virginian, and they gradually become friends. The Virginian works as a cowboy on a cattle ranch. He develops a romantic interest in the new schoolteacher, recently arrived from Vermont. He faces a gradually increasing animosity from a dishonest and jealous opponent. He experiences mental anguish over his role in frontier justice.

At the time it was written, this historical period was not that long in the past. Dramatic tension is established through the underlying conflict between Eastern and Western views of what should constitute “civilization” with the East represented by the schoolteacher and the West by the Virginian and his employer. Action oriented scenes are fewer than expected. Much of the narrative is spent in describing the landscape, riding horses, and engaging in dialogue. The Virginian’s friend, serving as narrator, becomes omniscient in places where he could not have been privy to events and conversations.

This novel is remarkably clear of Hollywood tropes. For example, it contains minimal gunfighting and Indians play only a background role. The story itself is entertaining and more complex than I had expected.


message 2: by David (new) - added it

David Putnam (davidputnam) | 283 comments Great review.


message 3: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8103 comments There was a TV show in 1960's called The Virginian. I wonder if it was built off this book. It was standard TV in our house, Dad owned the TV the night it was on.


Joy D | 4196 comments David wrote: "Great review."
Thanks, David.


Joy D | 4196 comments Joanne wrote: "There was a TV show in 1960's called The Virginian. I wonder if it was built off this book. It was standard TV in our house, Dad owned the TV the night it was on."

I had to look it up, but according to Wikipedia: "The novel was loosely adapted for the NBC-TV series The Virginian (1962–1971)." I am pretty sure the televised version included lots of material not in the book, like wagon trains, Indian raids, gunfights, and the like.


message 6: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8103 comments Joy D wrote: "Joanne wrote: "There was a TV show in 1960's called The Virginian. I wonder if it was built off this book. It was standard TV in our house, Dad owned the TV the night it was on."

I had to look it ..."


Oh yes, lots of that! LoL


message 7: by Holly R W (new)

Holly R W | 1502 comments Very interesting review, Joy. As it turns out, I was reading a western novel set in 1870's Texas (News of the World) while you were reading about Wyoming during the same time period.


Joy D | 4196 comments Holly R W wrote: "Very interesting review, Joy. As it turns out, I was reading a western novel set in 1870's Texas (News of the World) while you were reading about Wyoming during the same time period."
Very cool, Holly! I read News of the World a couple years ago and loved it.


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