The Virginian

by Owen Wister

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Social Concerns

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A social dilemma that haunted early twentieth-century America was a growing tension between East and West. This conflict was rooted in the cultural mores each region embraced. Eastern America was closely aligned with traditional European values of civil order, social restraint, and genteel intellectualism. Western America rejected these values and created a cultural matrix based upon rugged individualism, social freedom, and common sense skills.

The Virginian reflects the regional tension of this turn-of-the-century era through its characters. Wister stereotypes them as either Eastern or Western in personality and often places them in opposition to one another. At each confrontation, however, it is important to note that neither side wins and an agreeable compromise is generally reached between them. Like his contemporaries, Wister was unwilling to see one set of values survive to the exclusion of the other. Thus, The Virginian suggests a resolution to the conflict through a joining of Eastern with Western qualities.

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