Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bridger’s Wells

Bridger’s Wells. Nevada town in which most of the novel’s characters live or do business. Two cowboys, Croft and Gil, ride into this town after spending the winter in solitude on the range. While in town, rumors quickly spread that a local cattleman has been murdered and his cattle have been stolen.

The town scenes are important for several reasons. First, this is the place of civilization. In contrast to the open range country, the town, with its churches, businesses, and legal authorities, represented by Sheriff Mapes and Judge Tyler, all suggest a civilization where moral and ethical judgment is presumed. Second, in the town scenes, Clark is able to introduce a large number of characters who either live in Bridger’s Wells or who are present to do business. These characters all have an economic interest in the town. They are rightly concerned about cattle rustling and murder, and they are eager to make sure evil is punished so that their status will be protected. Third, in front of the saloon, these various characters gather to hear and respond to the announcement of murder and cattle rustling. This is a natural setting where readers can readily see the range of emotional speeches and futile attempts at reason provoked by the announcement.

Finally, after the tragic miscarriage of justice occurs, most of the riders return to Bridger’s Wells. Readers see various responses to the deed, including...

(The entire section is 536 words.)