Heroes of the American West Analysis

Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Heroes of the American West, Martha R. Pappas has assembled an anthology of writings that reflect the life experienced by people on the Western frontier of the United States during the nineteenth century. The selections included in this collection cover the period from about 1830 to the close of the frontier in about 1890. Several of the pieces were written by well-known, professional authors such as Washington Irving and Mark Twain. Others are the stories of relatively unknown individuals who performed acts of bravery or perseverance and who tell their stories simply. A significant number of the selections in the book are not firsthand accounts but are taken from histories or biographies.

Heroes of the American West is arranged in six sections. The first of these deals with explorers and trappers, especially the famous “mountain men” exemplified by Jim Bridger. The second section of the book deals with pioneers who traveled along the Oregon Trail or the California Trail or who followed the route of the Mormons to Utah. The next section deals with miners, many of whom were motivated by a desire to become rich quickly through a massive discovery of gold but most of whom ended working a shift for wages in a mine owned by an Eastern corporation. The author then deals with outlaws and officers of the law, the picturesque figures without which no consideration of the Western frontier would be complete. The life and work of the cowboy...

(The entire section is 449 words.)