In "Rock Springs," what was significant about Rock Springs, Wyoming?
Absolutely nothing. We need to remember that Ford is reacting in part to manifestations of American literature where the American West was a place where Americans came to build a homestead and to claim a particular slice of land as their own, to farm and develop. For Earl, and the other characters in this collection of stories by Ford, there is no sense of belonging or of building a future. Instead Earl is presented as a character who wanders listlessly through life and has very little control of what happens to him.
As the novel opens, he is forced to leave Montana because of his crime of trying to cash bad cheques. He chooses Rock Springs on a whim, as he has to leave the state of Montana. He is a figure who is defined by his itinerant, migratory pattern of modern life. What happens to him during the course of the story indicates that it really doesn't matter where he is heading. What drives him is the desire to continually be moving and not to stay still. Rock Springs is presented as nothing more than a pit stop that gives Earl the chance to take a break before continuing on his path of meaninglessness. Earl, unlike other American characters, is not fixed to any one location and does not have a sense of ownership of any land.