The Virginian

by Owen Wister

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Chapters 34–36 Summary

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Chapter 34: “To Fit Her Finger”

The next time the Virginian writes to the narrator, it is with a request for two rings. These must be made of pure gold and must come from the East Coast, since nothing to be had in the Western cities of Cheyenne or Denver could be good enough for Molly. With the help of Mrs. Henry, the Virginian selects an engagement ring set with an opal, for Molly’s birth month, surrounded by small diamonds, for his.

The date is set for the wedding: it is to take place on the third of July, after which Molly and the Virginian are to have a sixty-day honeymoon. Because Molly’s family have failed to accept the Virginian (her mother did not even answer his letter), she has decided that their wedding will be in Wyoming, not in Vermont among her relations. They will visit Vermont only in the second month of their honeymoon. Molly frets about the absence of her mother from the wedding, though she hides this carefully from the Virginian.

Chapter 35: With Malice Aforethought

On the day before their wedding, the Virginian and Molly are riding into the town of Medicine Bow when they encounter Trampas. Although Molly has never seen him before, she immediately guesses from the hatred in his eyes that this must be the Virginian’s bitterest enemy. He tells her the history of his quarrels with Trampas and says that he has been ready for a showdown with him for many years.

When they reach Medicine Bow, three of the Virginian’s friends—Scipio, Honey Wiggin, and Lin MacLean—are waiting to take him out for his last drink as a bachelor. While they are out drinking, the Virginian hears that Trampas has been spreading a rumor that he, the Virginian, was responsible for Shorty’s murder, as well as being behind the cattle-rustling. Trampas then bursts in upon the party, “courageous with whiskey,” and gives the Virginian until sundown to leave town.

The Virginian is deeply troubled as to what he should do. He knows he cannot run away from Trampas, but he also knows that Molly may never forgive him if he kills the man, on his wedding day of all days. He confers with the Bishop of Wyoming, who has come to perform the ceremony. The Bishop advises him to run away, saying that his life is not just his own now, but Molly’s as well. The Virginian concedes the point but still cannot bring himself to run away from danger.

When he returns to the hotel, the Virginian discovers that someone has already told Molly what has happened. She begs him to come away with her, but he says he cannot do it. This, Molly tells him, means the end of their relationship. The Virginian goes out, faces Trampas, and shoots him. He announces to the bystanders that he is going back to the hotel, in case anyone wants to take issue with what he has done, but Scipio says there are three of them who saw Trampas draw his weapon and attempt to shoot the Virginian. Trampas was killed honorably, in a fair fight, and there will be no repercussions.

The Virginian returns to the hotel room and announces to Molly that he has killed Trampas. Molly is so relieved that it was not the other way around that she forgives him instantly, and they are married by the bishop the next day.

Chapter 36: At Dunbarton

Molly and the Virginian spend the first part of their honeymoon together on an island in the shadow of the mountains. For thirty...

(This entire section contains 836 words.)

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days, they see no faces but their own, passing the time together in the beauty, stillness, and silence of the Western landscape. Then they journey to Bennington to see Molly’s family.

The people of Bennington are somewhat disappointed by the civilized figure presented by the Virginian, with his grave Southern courtesy and his well-tailored suit. He is not by any means the rough, tough cowboy they had expected. Even Molly’s mother and sister seem well-disposed toward him. Her great-aunt, who always supported the match, is thoroughly delighted and says that she can quite see why Molly wanted to marry the Virginian. He is equally impressed by the old lady, who is quite unlike anyone he has met before.

Back at Sunk Creek, Judge Henry makes the Virginian his partner. The narrator ends by saying that, though the cattle war of 1889 put an end to ranching, the Virginian owned land on which there was coal, and the railroad was soon extended to transport it. This made him a wealthy and important man. Molly sometimes misses the Bear Creek days and declares that the Virginian works so hard it will kill him, but it has not done so yet. They have children, the eldest of whom now rides the Virginian’s horse, Monte, and the narrator concludes, “strictly between ourselves, I think his father is going to live a long while.”


Chapters 31–33 Summary