When You Read The Virginian, Smile

In the late 1800s, Owen Wister fell under the spell of Wyoming. The result of his infatuation was The Virginian. 

It is an episodic novel, loosely tied together by a clash between two men, the dastardly Trampas and the heroic Virginian, who lived in and off the rugged land.

The story is told by an Easterner who comes to visit Judge Henry at Sunk Creek. The judge sends the Virginian to meet his guest at Medicine Bow. Under the Virginian’s tutelage, the greenhorn grows into a friend and companion the Virginian is happy to ride with.

The Virginian is the novel that gave us the famous line, “When you call me that, smile.”

All the elements we’ve learned to expect in a Western first came to public attention in this novel: the strong, silent hero; the challenge over a poker hand; the pretty school teacher from the East; the shootout on the public street.

What’s surprising is the humor. The Virginian’s story of the frog farm is a marvelous tall tale with a satiric bite. And I love the story of what happens when the Virginian feels sorry for Emily, the hen, and gives her a clutch of eggs that another hen has been sitting on for 10 days.

Even if you aren’t normally a person who enjoys westerns, I think you’ll like this granddaddy of the genre.

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
By Owen Wister
350 pages
1902 Bestseller # 1
1903 Bestseller #5
Project Gutenberg ebook #1298
© 2012 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.

2 thoughts on “When You Read The Virginian, Smile”

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