Geography, Private Property, and Western Narratives

  • George Szanto


The protagonist of western stories, as presented in films or in novels, has long been considered an individual-as-image capable of satisfying a viewer’s or reader’s search for an uncomplicated hero in an apparently anarchic contemporary world. Certain pieces of thematic material — strength of will, an ability to function by oneself, the glory of personal freedom and the like — together with their exaggeration and purification, became the narrative content of western novels and films. Through this content the genre has flourished because the myth of the west is often satisfactory, for however briefly, to those living within urban social deprivation. Such myth, for the purpose of this exploration of westerns, can be located at the point where exaggerated western circumstances (the originals of which may indeed have been present in the historical and social realities under consideration in the narratives) touch audiences whose imaginations seek to dwell pleasantly on those circumstances, in order to appease some of the general psychological demands of these audiences in their roles as everyday citizens. More simply stated, the uncomplicated western hero makes one feel, if not good, at least better.


Private Property Northern Range Narrative Content Wide Open Space Professional Gambler 
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Chapter 2: Geography, Private Property And Western Narratives

  1. 3.
    David Lavender, The American Heritage History of the Great West (New York: American Heritage Press, 1965) p. 353.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Emerson Hough, The Story of the Cowboy (New York: Burt, 1905) pp. 144–5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Szanto

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