The Power of Western Landscapes Angus MacDonald Senior Year Project 2012
Interests • Camping and the outdoors • Reading • Two weeks in New Mexico • Favorite Book: Lonesome Dove
The Project • Didn’t correlate the West and literature together at first • Why is the environment in the American Western Literature significant? • Book Writing • As far into the story, going at a 1,000 words per day • 1,000 words a day is a lot and a little
Writing • One must read well in order to write well • Writing correlated with research with History and feeling • Westerns are historical fiction • Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian
History of the West • Defined by iconic characters • Natives Americans • Mountain Men • Settlers • Cowboys and Miners • Lawmen and U.S Army
Western Lit • Glorify vs. Truth • Freedom • Power (often linked with freedom) • The idea of the hero (protagonist) • Ethical and moral ideas, conflicts, and obligations • The idea of permittivity in man
Lonesome Dove • Written by Larry McMurtry in 1985 • About a cattle drive from Texas to Montana in 1880s • The essential Western • Does not glorify the west nor de-glorify • All time favorite book
L.D Quotes • “It's like I told you last night son. The earth is mostly just a bone yard. But pretty in the sunlight, he added”-Augustus McCrae • The eastern sky was red as coals in a forge, lighting up the flats along the river. Dew had wet the million needles of the chaparral, and when the rim of the sun edged over the horizon the chaparral seemed to be spotted with diamonds. A bush in the backyard was filled with little rainbows as the sun touched the dew. It was tribute enough to sunup that it could make even chaparral bushes look beautiful, Augustus thought, and he watched the process happily, knowing it would only last a few minutes. The sun spread reddish-gold light through the shining bushes, among which a few goats wandered, bleating. Even when the sun rose above the low bluffs to the south, a layer of light lingered for a bit at the level of the chaparral, as if independent of its source. The sun lifted clear, like an immense coin. The dew quickly died, and the light that filled the bushes like red dirt dispersed, leaving clear, slightly bluish air.”
The Road • Written by Cormac McCarthy in 2006 • Post apocalyptic American West • About a son and father travelling to survive • Dense/brutal, mentally speaking • The goodness in humanity
Road Quotes • The land was gullied and eroded and barren. The bones of dead creatures sprawled in the washes. Maddens of anonymous trash. Farmhouses in the fields scoured of their paint and the clapboards spooned and sprung from the wall studs. All of it shadow less and without feature. The road descended through a jungle of dead kudzu. A marsh where the dead reeds lay over the water. Beyond the edge of the fields the sullen haze hung over earth and sky alike. By late afternoon it had begun to snow and they went on with the tarp over them and the wet snow hissing on the plastic • Out there was the gray beach with the slow combers rolling dull and leaden and the distant sound of it. Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. Out on the tidal flats lay a tanker half careened. Beyond that the ocean vast and cold and shifting heavily like a slowly heaving vat of slag and then the gray squall line of ash. He looked at the boy. He could see the disappointment in his face. I'm sorry it's not blue, he said. That's okay, said the boy.
All The Pretty Horses • Written by Cormac McCarthy in 1992 • About a two boys leaving their homes in south Texas on horseback to Mexico in 1949 • Major theme is conflict/ Man vs. (X) • Seen through the protagonist John Grady Cole • Protagonist is close with horses and doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, wild with a strong sense of morals, a classic western protagonist
Pretty Horses Quotes • As he was drifting to sleep his thoughts were of horses and of the open country and of horses. Horses still wild on the mesa who'd never seen a man afoot and who knew nothing of him or his life yet in whose souls he would come to reside forever. • He lay listening to the horse crop the grass at his stake rope and he listened to the wind in the emptiness and watched stars trace the arc of the hemisphere and die in the darkness at the edge of the world as he lay there the agony in his heart was like a stake. He imagined the pain of the world to be like some formless parasitic being seeking out the warmth of human souls wherein to incubate and he thought he knew what made one liable to its visitations. What he had not known was that it was mindless and so had no way to know the limits of those souls and what he feared was that there might be no limits.
Meaning • Why is the environment in the American Western Literature significant? • Western environment, a pallet for a painter, it is a certain craft • It connects us to the natural world, to a minor degree • The landscape of the west cannot be dominated by man
Western Landscape • Mountains • Mesas • Deserts • Devil’s Tower • Grand Canyon • Rocky Mountains • Man cannot conquer these natural structures
Conclusion • Western folklore is both entertaining and meaningful • Folklore of the West, past and present, will always exist • The nature of the West is the foundation of the West, thus the foundation of its folklore • Native-American belief in the balance of nature