John R. C. Ramsay — Honors in English
The Good, The Bad and The Bewildered: Portrayals of Masculinity in Literature of the American Western Frontier
Though it has long been closed, the American western frontier continues to affect modern culture. Most significantly, our perception of masculinity continues to be rooted in how we as Americans perceive the history of this country’s westward expansion. The novels analyzed within this paper—Blood Meridian: or the Evening Redness in the West (McCarthy, 1985), All the Pretty Horses (McCarthy, 1993), and The Last Picture Show (McMurtry, 1993)—document the apocalyptic final moments of a truly wild American frontier as harbingers of the metamorphosis of a culture founded in chaos in the complex sociopolitical structure of modern times. By analyzing these examples of contemporary western fiction with the theories of sociologist Michael Kimmel and writer Timothy Beneke, this paper deglamorizes the mythical cowboy image of traditional western literature and exposes a larger and generally internal struggle for a more realistic masculine identity.