The books by Zane Grey played a significant role in the development of the genre called western. The image of a hero living in the Wild West comes from his works. Interestingly, more than half of Grey’s works were screened. This writer was able to create such an extraordinary character due to the experience he received while traveling in the west. He became closely acquainted with the culture, sights, and realities of this terrain, which left an indelible impression on him. These reflections were transformed into a particular literary genre. The book “Riders of the Purple Sage” was one of the first in the genre western. At present, this work is considered classics of the genre. The purpose of this paper is to review this book by Zane Grey.
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The book reveals the events from the life of Jane Withersteen and her friends who face multiple obstacles on their way to happiness. Members of the Mormon Church persecute the young woman because its leader intends to marry Jane. Lassiter and Bern help her to avoid this terrible event. The young woman adopts a girl (Fay) and falls in love with Lassiter with whom they have to overcome various difficulties to be together (Grey 175). Lassiter is well known in Texas and Utah (Grey 152). He does not accept the Mormon beliefs and helps Jane save her friend Bern Venters from persecution. Bern, in his turn, falls in love with Bess who turns out to be the Masked Rider. In the course of the story development, some of the heroes abandon their religious roots and beliefs. They have to fight with the Mormon community to be with their loved ones. Overall, storylines intertwine the fates of the main characters, which allows the audience to understand them better, and an exciting and dynamic plot pushes the reader to finish the book in one sitting.
One of the main features of the book is the dynamic plot. The author creates an exciting atmosphere by unfolding several storylines simultaneously. In particular, he intrigues the reader with two love affairs, which unfold against the background of confrontation between the church representatives and the main heroes (Grey 152). Grey sustains the atmosphere of intrigue by implanting minor events that contribute to the overall mood. For instance, the reader tries to answer the query about the connection between Oldring and Bess and the identity of the “Masked Rider” while anticipating the further development of love stories (Grey 68). These events are accompanied by detailed descriptions of the area.
The author uses his descriptive ability to help readers find themselves in the Wild West observing sage bushes and canyon (Grey 304). This factor contributes greatly to the intense development of the plot in which scenes change rapidly to produce emotional tension. Also, it can be assumed that the author intentionally allows the villains to succeed in some parts of the story to make the reader sympathize and support the main characters. Therefore, by developing several storylines simultaneously, the author manages to create the dynamics of events and sustain the reader’s attention.
It should be noted that the book raises several crucial topics. The issue of morality can be viewed in the confronting values of terrain residents. To be more precise, Jane is oppressed because of her views; nevertheless, she remains a righteous person. She faces difficulties when she tries to adopt Fay and, at first, her attempts are unsuccessful because the community does not support her values (Grey 116). According to the members of the church, the young woman does not adhere to the tenets propagated by their religion; therefore, they believe that they can punish her for it and intend to change her beliefs by violent means. In the course of the story, Jane questions her faith but remains a person with high moral standards.
Another theme raised by the writer is the issue of isolation. The main heroes gradually become isolated from the general society. Jane becomes excluded from society because of her morality while Venters is made an outcast because “the Mormons had practically driven him out of Cottonwoods” (Grey 152). Lassiter chooses to live outside of society since he considers the actions of Mormons to be driven by bad intentions. In the end, the main characters become excluded from society altogether. Some of them run away to the East to cease persecution (Grey 370). Some of them settle down in a paradise-like valley to find peace and safety.
Religious confrontation is a crucial topic, which permeates the entire plot. The members of the Mormon Church are villains who are blind towards any other faith (Grey 9). They are intolerant of anyone who does not support their beliefs and also treats people from their confession who are friends with anyone belonging to a different religion poorly. They resort to power and violence to make other people join the church and do not understand the complexity of the world. The individuals who do not accept their values are killed, excluded, or isolated from the community. All the heroes have to confront this form of social pressure and prefer to abandon the terrain because of persecution.
Gender roles are one of the themes, which appear to be controversial in the story. Jane and Bess are the two main female characters, and they are portrayed as rather weak beings. In particular, throughout the story, Jane is often referred to as “blind”, and she recognizes herself being so (Grey 196). In general, women are subservient to men in the Mormon religion, and Lassiter tries to persuade the woman that her religion makes her weak. Nonetheless, Jane needs help from the side of a man to abandon her blindness. Apart from that, Bess is also portrayed as a weak person. When Venters shoots her, he is devastated by the fact that he has killed a woman (Grey 70). It means that he would not feel remorse if he had killed a Mormon man. It can be assumed that females are more helpless in this story than men are, which can be viewed as a sign of feminine societal subservience.
Thus, it can be concluded that the book “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey has a dynamic and exciting plot, which carries the reader away. Nevertheless, the complexity of storylines helps the audience to analyze the deeper meaning of the events. The western raises such significant topics as morality, intolerance, gender roles, social isolation, and other issues to stimulate the reader’s perception and analysis of the setting. Therefore, the book not only entertains the reader but also proves them with mental nourishment.
Grey, Zane. Riders of the Purple Sage. 1st World Publishing, 2004.