Mari Sandoz Stanley T. Williams - Essay

Stanley T. Williams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Distrustful of Leatherstocking and of the vast body of sentimental literature of the frontier, some of us have long suspected that the true conqueror of the land was a hero as brutal as its icy winters but, at times, as picturesque as the sunflowers along its sand trails…. Romanticists have tinted the stark fact of such men, and realists have dimmed their romance, until in our present attempts to relive the life of the West we encounter either the Rousseauesque natural man, ennobled beyond all probability, or the free trapper with his ax and rifle, keeping his bare journal, too sterile, too colorless to be the true mirror of the explorer's life. The extraordinary power of [Old Jules] appears to be in conveying truth of event and scene on the frontier in the medium of a style so vital and imaginative that instead of fiction or a trader's diary we read the very minds of these pioneer men and women. (pp. 391-92)

The story of Old Jules himself is absorbing. So are the glimpses of the frontier women, as authentic as those in the untutored pages of St. John de Crèvecoeur of the eighteenth century. I think the story itself a valuable bit of Americana: how Jules Sandoz quarrelled with his father; how he came out of the East in the spring over the pale green prairie to found his home and race. Two passions moved him, to obtain a woman for his home, and to subdue the land. To fulfil the first aim he had four wives, one of whom became...

(The entire section is 530 words.)