The American West

Essay by jtdevoeUniversity, Master'sA, June 2004

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The American West, a new frontier, a new promise to those who immigrated to the land, and a land where legends and myths were born. With this exciting time came violence or the threat. However, today many only know the violence as portrayed by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and the producers and directors of the Hollywood Western. Violence in many aspects is what helped shape the New American West because the people of the Old American West were the major target of violence.

A century ago, the American West, and the process of homesteading and Americanization that took place in the lands West of the Mississippi River was seen as a triumph of American drive, ingenuity, and courage; a sheer act of will that required hard work, perseverance, and above all, a spirit of independence and individualism.

In the decades following the closing of the Frontier (as pronounced by Frederick Turner in 1890) , this perception of the West changed dramatically.

The old view of a divinely inspired spread of Americanism changed to a more ambivalent view by mid-century, and finally, to an openly hostile view today that Western society was (and is) violent, murderous, and chaotic. We are told now that the West, after the coming of the white man, was a land of sadistic Indian murderers, psychopathic outlaws, and misfits who had abandoned the more peaceful life back in the good ol' U.S. A.

Whether promoting or condemning the West, though, novelists, filmmakers, and even historians never shied away from giving us many images of murdering Indians, roaming outlaws, crazy misfits, but what in an earlier era would have been abnormal behavior in films and images of the West, became standard behavior for citizens of the West in later times.

There is certainly no doubt that Native American...