Romance Is Blight on The Desert of Wheat

The Desert of Wheat is an unsatisfactory romantic novel by the master of westerns, Zane Grey.

The story is set in the Bend Country of eastern Oregon in 1917 after America had declared war on Germany. The Industrial Workers of the World is organizing farm and timber workers to disrupt the war effort by sabotaging America’s food production.

Kurt Dorn sides with his father’s mortgage-holder, Anderson, against the IWW, causing a breach with his father. Anderson tells Kurt how to save his wheat crop. The plan succeeds, but the IWW burns the harvested wheat before it can be sold. Kurt’s father dies attempting to save the wheat, and  Kurt deeds the farm to Anderson to pay the mortgage.

Kurt insists on going into the military to fight Germans. Anderson’s daughter Lenore promises to marry Kurt when he comes home.

Grey held me spellbound with the IWW material and his description of trench warfare in France. Lenore’s letting Kurt go to war made psychological sense to me, too. But I never got the sense that the issues that gave rise to the IWW were solved, nor that Kurt’s post traumatic stress was over.

I can’t help wondering what this novel might have been if Grey had shaken off the conventions of cowboy romance.

The Desert of Wheat
By Zane Grey
1919 bestseller #3
Project Gutenberg ebook 10201
My grade B-
©2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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