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Rehearsing and Ridiculing Marriage in The Virginian and Other Adventure Tales

  • Chris Packard

Abstract

At the end of Owen Wister’s cowboy classic The Virginian, after the horseman-hero kills the last of the cattle rustlers in a shoot-out, he finally marries Molly Wood, the feisty schoolmarm, whom he has courted and sassed for so long. He takes her on a spectacular horseback honeymoon near the Gran Tetons. They camp on an island in an idyllic mountain stream, and after much sensuous language suggesting a ritualistic deflowering, husband and wife spend an idle afternoon drowsing on a rock by the stream. Interrupting their nuptial, a “little wild animal” swims by, and emerges from the stream to roll and stretch in the sand. As the mink trots away, the Virginian forms a homoerotic parable out of his visit.

Keywords

East Coast Moral Sense Black Hair Hunting Trip Ranch Hand 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Wister, Owen. The Virginian. New York: Penguin Classics, 1988, pp. 384–385.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Andy Adams, A Texas Matchmaker. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903, p. 281.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Several critics have analyzed the implied homoerotic relationship between Steve and the Virginian: among them Blake Allmendinger (Ten Most Wanted: The New Western Literature, New York: Routledge Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  4. Jane Tompkins (West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992)Google Scholar
  5. William R. Handley (Marriage, Violence, and the Nation in the American Literary West, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 7.
    See Barbara Welter’s article, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860,” in Locating American Studies, ed. Lucy Maddox (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    See Lee Clark Mitchell’s Westerns: Making the Man in Westerns and Film (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    John Seelye does a good job of outlining the erotic interlude between the narrator and the Virginian during this camping scene in his introduction to The Virginian (New York: Penguin, 1988, pp. vii–xxxiii).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Several good histories of homosexuality in America exist. John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman’s classic Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, 2nd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  10. Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay American History (New York: Meridian, 1992)Google Scholar
  11. D. Michael Quinn’s superlative Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996)Google Scholar
  12. James Creech theorizes literary codes about nineteenth-century homoeroticism, Closet Writing/Gay Reading: The Case of Melville’s Pierre (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993)Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Ridge, John Rollin. The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (1854). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    See Robert K. Martin’s excellent Hero, Captain, Stranger: Male Friendship, Social Critique, and Literary Form in the Sea Novels of Herman Melville (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    See Albert Johannson, The House of Beadle and Adams, Vol. 2 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950), p. 289.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    For a good discussion of the kind of robust masculinity expected of Harvard graduates during the late nineteenth century, see Kim Townsend’s Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chris Packard 2005

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  • Chris Packard

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