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Dr. Joyce Kinkead on A Son of His Father 
Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.  Used by Permission.  

<<< Continued from Previous Page.   

                                                                                                 Omitting his usual social comments in this novel, Wright presents the story of "the right man getting the right woman."[1]  Typically, the novel is filled with mystery.  The female interest is Nora O'shea, an Irish girl who, after her mother's death, travels to Arizona to see her brother, who works at the Las Rosas Ranch owned by Big Boy Morgan.  However, Larry, her brother, lured by the promise of more money, has gone to work for a rival ranch, the Black Canyon, where the cowboys are running guns across the Mexican border in addition to rustling cattle.  When Nora arrives at the ranch, neither Morgan nor his cowboys have the heart to tell her about her brother.  She remains at the ranch, believing the story they tell her, and her personality endears her to all of the ranch's residents, especially Morgan.

            Nora senses a sinister air at the ranch by the presence of Jim Holdbrook, a wealthy Philadelphia gentleman.  As it turns out, his father trapped Morgan into a financial deal and gained controlling interest in the ranch.  The elder Holdbrook intends to give the ranch to his son as a gift, provided he remains on the ranch for a year without getting into trouble.  Nora and Charles Gray, a friend of Morgan who has come West for his health, successfully snare Holdbrook, who is discovered to be part of the gun smuggling operation.  Holdbrook is sent to jail along with the rest of the Black Canyon accomplices.  Unfortunately, Nora's brother is killed when the government agents raid the Black Canyon ranch, but he redeems himself before his death by helping the agents arrest the smugglers.

            Morgan retains ownership of the ranch, with Nora's help, and they eventually marry.  A minor love story is also resolved between Pablo, a vaquero, and Dolores, a girl from the Black Canyon outfit, due to Nora's influence in showing the girl that love means more than money.[2]  Charles Gray, also bewitched by Nora, forgets his self-interest and his self-pity and becomes a man in the western sense of the word (A Son, p. 300).  The villains of the story are imprisoned, and Morgan has the second chance go develop the ranch as his father wished (A Son, p. 211).

            Although one theme of the novel is hope, Wright still depends on the superiority of the West as the underlying theme of all his western novels.  He also presents again the easterner's stereotyped view of the West, this time through the eyes of an author who comes to  gather material for a novel of the "real West" and who notes that, "I confess:  when I stepped off the train I expected to see cowboys standing around, wearing guns and big hats and high-heeled boots with spurs and those fringed legging things made of leather" (A Son, p. 25).  He is shocked to find Tucson a modern city, where the former adventurous cowboys have become the town's leading businessmen.  These men are proud of Tucson but sometimes wish they could revert to some of the Old West's characteristics, such as "standards of honor and decency and fair play" (A Son, p. 27).  They also regret their children's "contempt for the past."  When those children try to build a modern city, they destroy most of the historical structures and atmosphere of Tucson (A Son, p. 21).

            The responsibility for the destruction of Tucson and the West in general rests on the shoulders of the opportunists who see the West as a financial frontier where they can become wealthy.  As in The Winning of Barbara Worth, "good business" has two distinct meanings.  One is the ethical business as practiced by Morgan, and the other is corrupt business as practiced by Holdbrook and his partner, Zobester.  As Jake Zobester explains, "I am doing no more than everybody is doing.  If somebody gets caught they call it grafting, stealing, or something else.  When they do not get caught then it is just good business" (A Son, p. 54).  Although A Son of His Father is more entertainment and less social comment than Wright's other western novels, the book still reminds westerners that they must gain control of their own financial frontiers if they are to establish and preserve the West as a superior region.


Return to A Son of His Father


    [1]Rev. of A Son of His Father, by Harold Bell Wright, New York Times Book Review, 26 July 1925, p. 13.

    [2]Harold Bell Wright, A Son of His Father (New York:  Appleton, 1925), p. 355.  Subsequent references to this book will be incorporated into the body of the text as A Son and pagination.

   Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.  Used by Permission.  

     

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