Henry Nash Smith's _Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth_ explores the enduring effect of the West on past and present culture. According to Smith, the idea of the West has shaped our country psychologically and socially to a degree unrecognized by scholars prior to this study. Literature played a vital role in creating this Western myth and in distributing it among its contemporaries. The stories provided the means by which the Western myth was to shape the psyche of Americans for years to come.
Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and Deadwood Dick--to name a few--are the products of the dime novels of the 1880's and 90's and compose a portion of the most recognized f igures of the old West. Yet preceding these heroes of the old West was a set of anti-heroes of the old Southwest which appeared in humorous sketches during the 1830's and 40's. This site is intended to give a background of character types in Southwestern humor and help to contextualize the western characters discussed in _Virgin Land_.
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