A book by Owen Wister. Published in 1902, The Virginian would certainly fall under the category of a "western", only it is not exactly filled with your stereotypical cowboys and indians. The book is told from the first person perspective, and chronicles the story of a cowpuncher referred to only as "The Virginian". Mary, a gradeschool teacher from Vermont, is the love interest of this charismatic main character. He impresses her with his manly deeds and stuff.

The book is also sprinkled with the author's personal commentary every so often. If I may reproduce a small example (the book is in public domain anyway):

It was through the Declaration of Independence that we Americans acknowledged the eternal equality of man. For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We had seen little mere artificially held up in high places, and great men artificially held down in low places, and our own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should thenceforth have equal liberty to find his own level. By this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to true aristocracy, saying, “Let the best man win, whoever he is.” Let the best man win! That is America’s word. That is true democracy. And true democracy and true aristocracy are one and the same thing. If anybody cannot see this, so much the worse for his eyesight.

The Virginian is a very American story, and it will appeal to anyone who likes the pioneering, optimistic spirit of the old west. Personally, I was more or less forced to read this in 7th grade, when my attention span wasn't really fit for such a mature work. I read it again more recently, and did rather enjoy it. Apparently, it was made into a film in 1946, although I don't really know much about that besides Amazon.com's listing of it.

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