Visions of the American West

October 30, 2020
Visions of the American West

Countless studies of the American West have been written fromthe viewpoint of history, psychology, sociology, and anthropology.But the West has seldom been written about with the reflective penof a philosopher.Offering more than a fresh retelling, in thoroughly human terms,of the major historical events of the nineteenth-century West,Gerald Kreyche also leads the reader in a search for the spirit ofthe West itself. That spirit was one with the American Dream, whichoffered freedom, individualism, and self-sufficiency to thosestrong enough and gutsy enough to heed the call of ManifestDestiny.Although the West was and is the most American part of Americaitself, its natural wonders, its spacious grandeur, its myths andmystique have captured the hearts and imaginations of people theworld over. We have all experienced the quickened pulse at themention of things indelibly western — tumbleweed, mountain men,high plains, cowboys and Indians, sod houses, coyotes, andgrizzlies. And who doesn't react to such bigger-than-life figuresas Jim Bridger, Buffalo Bill, George Armstrong Custer, SittingBull, and Crazy Horse? The personal humdrum of our times rapidlydisappears when, through the magic of western films, TV shows, andbooks, we vicariously lose ourselves and then find ourselves in theAmerican West of a bygone time.The West, then, produced a quasi-separate culture. And, as eachculture must, it gave birth to its own ethos, its own specialcharacter, its own tone and set of guiding beliefs. Kreychecontends that in the process of "westering," the veneer of thesophisticated easterner was sloughed off, leaving in sharp outlinethe frontiersman and the pioneer. In their own manner, these menand women produced a new species of homo americanus.