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.
About Riders of the Purple Sage
Told by a master storyteller who, according to critic Russell Nye, “combined adventure, action, violence, crisis, conflict, sentimentalism, and sex in an extremely shrewd mixture,” Riders of the Purple Sage is a classic of the Western genre. It is the story of Lassiter, a gunslinging avenger in black, who shows up in a remote Utah town just in time to save the young and beautiful rancher Jane Withersteen from having to marry a Mormon elder against her will. Lassiter is on his own quest, one that ends when he discovers a secret grave on Jane’s grounds. “[Zane Grey’s] popularity was neither accidental nor undeserved,” wrote Nye. “Few popular novelists have possessed such a grasp of what the public wanted and few have developed Grey’s skill at supplying it.”