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Genesis Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In this rite-of-passage story, nineteen- year-old Englishman Lionel Cullen— called "Rusty" for his red hair— passes into adulthood. The rite-of-passage theme differs from the coming-of-age theme by focusing on one key event that marks the transition into adulthood. In Genesis, the rite of passage is a two week cattle drive through three terrible blizzards. At the beginning of the story, Rusty is a somewhat spoiled young man, looking for fun and adventure as a Canadian cowboy. After only a day of work, he realizes that riding herd is not an adventure; it is just grueling work. Later, he contemplates what he might be doing instead of exhausting himself in painful labors. He could be going to Oxford University or sailing in a harbor while jeering at working sailors. He traveled to Canada over the objections of his family; like a spoiled child, he became more stubborn the more his family decried his whim to be a cowboy. He discovers that the life of a cowboy is not romantic, and he yearns to be free of his obligations to the men with whom he works. He imagines himself abandoning them and heading home. Yet, by the story's end, he has learned to act like a man. He learns that saving another man's life is not heroism. On the range, that is merely doing what is expected; anything less would be cowardice. This realization on his part marks his transition into manhood.