"The Man Was Forever Looking for That Which He Never Found" The Western and Automotive Tourism in the Early Twentieth Century Upon first sight of the eponymous cowboy, the narrator of Owen Wister's The Virginian notes that "he had plainly come many miles from somewhere across the vast horizon, as the dust upon him showed" (4). In a scene that will be reproduced countless times in subsequent Westerns, the Virginian enters the narrative as a transient. His mobile lifestyle becomes inextricably bound to his essential nature because traveling through the Western's landscape necessitates the cowboy's self-reliant, individualist ethos for survival. However, unlike the more recognizable ending of the cowboy riding off into the sunset, The Virginian and other classic Westerns conclude with the cowboy's reincorporation into the domestic sphere, generally through marriage. This melodramatic closure is rather enigmatic given the cowboy's opening characterization.1 How could an inherently transient figure unproblematically decide to settle down? Why would a man like Riders of the Purple Sage's Lassiter, having spent most of his adult life "looking for that which he never found" (8), resign himself to a secluded existence with an adopted family? The cowboy further highlights the vexing quality of
Western American Literature – The Western Literature Association
Published: Oct 10, 2015
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