Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)
Cheyenne Autumn is the third in a series of six books in which Mari Sandoz tells the story of the settlement of the Great Plains, from the time of the earliest fur trappers and frontiersmen to the later Indian rebellions and immigrant settlements. Her theme is the epic pageant of the Old West, with its violence, beauty, bravery, hardship, and change. Other works in this series include Old Jules (1935), based on the life of her father, a Swiss pioneer in western Nebraska; Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas (1942), the story of the famous Oglala chief; and The Buffalo Hunters: The Story of the Hide Men (1954). The Cattlemen of the Rio Grande Across the Far Marias (1958) and The Beaver Men: Spearheads of Empire (1964) depict the history of settlement in the Old West. Of these novels, Cheyenne Autumn is among the most powerful, evoking an elegiac mood in its account of the heroic flight of the Northern Cheyenne back to their ancestral home. A dedicated and prolific novelist of the Nebraska frontier, Sandoz employs an honest realism to re-create the annals of Western history. Her accounts of the Indians and the white settlers attempt to present the region both as it was and as part of the enduring American myth of the Frontier West.