The Western Formula

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A seemingly traditional approach towards the Western frontier is the reason for John Cawelti’s assessment from The Six-Gun Mystique. His description of the Western formula being “far easier to define than that of the detective story” may clearly be a paradigm for many authors, but not particularly for Stephen Crane. The standards Cawelti has set forth for a successful Western is quite minimal by thought, but at the same time relevant. Crane signifies a different perspective to these standards. Crane’s thoughts for the use of the Western formula are just approaches towards the west, from the introductory setting to the coarse grin one cowboy would make towards another. These do not in fact relate to Cawelti’s Western formula. Crane’s deviation from the formula western signifies his deeper approach towards issues such as human existence and morality—the ethical code that we follow for success. Crane perhaps does this because he personally finds more significance in the inner meaning of an issue rather than its surfacing argument. Cawelti’s Western formula holds a strong assumption that men are assertive and women are insignificant. He is standardizing the black and white of the West. There is an unequivocal struggle between good and evil—and guns and violence can only solve that. Jane Tompkins standpoint on a Western seems to be a middle ground between Cawelti and Crane. She recognizes that violence is a central theme to a Western, but as well explains how we think of violence. In this day of age, we as a society have prohibited violence as a means of solving problems—Crane does not directly follow this in his stories, but definitely questions it. Cawelti on the other hand marks violence as the only answer—another black and white circumstance. “This radical discrepancy between the sense of eroding masculinity and the view of America as a great history of men against the...
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