Omitting his usual social comments in this novel, Wright presents the
story of "the right man getting the right woman."
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,
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.
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,
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
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
Used by Permission.