A great drama of psyche and landscape, Zane Grey's bestselling 1912 adventure romance is the definitive Western novel, with popular appeal and distinct codes of chivalry and toughness.
A master of narrative momentum and suspense, Zane Grey sweeps readers into his stories and makes them feel that things are out of control, that boundaries are being burst. In Riders of the Purple Sage, the most famous novel of the American West, Grey creates a hero of epic proportions, a villain of legendary evil and a world in which the landscape is rendered with such force that it seems to express thoughts and feelings, to become a character in its own right. Indeed, Riders of the Purple Sage derives much of its depth and power from passions whose forbidden and overwhelming nature cannot be expressed by human beings and are therefore embodied in the natural world. In his depiction of the relationship between Lassiter, the hero, and Jane Withersteen, Grey breaks other literary barriers: Jane, modelled on the heroines of the nineteenth-century novel, must come to terms with the values expressed by Lassiter - the harsh, "masculine" values of the twentieth century. Their struggles together represent the tumultuous changes society itself was confronting.
William R. Handley is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California and the author of Marriage, Violence, and the Nation in the American Literary West.
“[Zane Grey is] an amazingly significant literary phenomenon.”—Hamlin Garland
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