2010 Student Research Conference:
23rd Annual Student Research Conference

Vigilantes, Cowboys, and Morality: The Western Dime NovelWorth Every Penny
Patrick R. Silvey♦
Dr. Alanna Preussner, Faculty Mentor

The American West of the late 19th century offers an interesting discourse in terms of our understanding of morality. The fictionalized West of the dime novel portrayed the vigilante--who enforced his code of ethics, necessarily, outside the limits of the law--as not only heroic, but ultimately American. I explore how the myth of the West was popularized because of what it meant for America as a whole. Essentially, the Western vigilante is romanticized because his lawless code, as popular fiction depicts it, ensures that, even in a lawless world, good will win out against evil. Stephen Crane offers two stories that respond to the popularity of the dime novel. In them Crane posits that the American West of the dime novel doesn't exist, and that, even if it did, evil is just as likely to win out as good is. For Crane, morality is a misnomer in the West. Those who believe they have it, ultimately use it for their own gains rather than for the good of their fellow man.

Keywords: Stephen Crane, The American West, Dime Novels, The Myth of the West, Intertextuality

American Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 30-3
Location: VH 1432
Time: 10:00

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♦ Indicates Truman Graduate Student
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