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The Significance of the Western Myth in modern America

Hausarbeit 2010 17 Seiten


Table of contents

I. Introduction

II. Description of the Western Myth and the American Frontier

III. Parts of modern life, where references to the Western Myth can be found
a. Cowboy movies
b. Advertisement
c. Political speeches
d. Country and Western music

IV. The American Frontier as metaphor in connection to other “frontiers”

V. Conclusion: The significance of the Western Myth in modern day America

VI. List of literature

I. Introduction

In this term paper I’m going to answer the question if the Western Myth and the idea of an American Frontier are still current topics in modern day America.

The glorified myth of a frontier moving faster and faster into the unknown is deeply rooted in the heads of the American people, since the first settlers moved westwards, over hundred-fifty years ago.

It had an enormous impact on America’s history and on its national identity. But can this idea of a frontier still be found today, or is it just a historically important, but today mostly unappealing episode in recent history books?

Furthermore, I will try to find an answer where hints and connections to the myth of the Old West - with its cowboys, lonesome riders and sheriffs - can be found in modern American culture. Are those images of the wild, deserted West still topical and influential, and if so, where. In which parts of life and culture can they be found, or are the Old West and the Western Myth just outdated?

I’m going to carry out my researches about this topic with the help of the books ‘The American frontier – Go West, young man’ by Prof. Dr. Michael Porsche,

‘The frontier in American History’ by Frederick Jackson Turner, ‘The Wild West: Myth and History’ by Alexander Emmerich and several internet sources to illustrate and prove my theses.

At the end of this term paper I hope to be able to point out, in which parts of everyday life in modern America references to the myth of the Wild West and the American Frontier can be found and which significance they have.

II. Description of the Western Myth and the American Frontier

1. The Western Myth

The Western Myth is the largely mythologized and/or idealized look at the life of the people living in the ‘Old West’. The Western Myth is more or less what people of today image the life in the Wild West had been like. It includes the idea of cowboys and sheriffs keeping law and order in their cities, people living on the edge of the civilized land, the so-called ‘frontier land’ as it will be explained further below, fighting for their rights of freedom and individualism. It is the mostly overvalued imagination of the life-conditions and living-circumstances in the American West, during the time of the pioneers in the second half of the 19th century. The Western Myth is their romanticized glorification.[1]

2. The American Frontier

To understand the term ‘American Frontier’ it is necessary to explain the meaning of the term ‘to manifest destiny’. The concept of a frontier is closely connected to the idea that the Americans ‘being the chosen people’ and that it is their duty to ‘manifest destiny’. This destiny describes the author William Gilpin as follows:

‘The untransacted destiny of the American people is to subdue the continent – to rush over the vast field to the Pacific Ocean - to animate the many hundred millions of its people, and to cheer them upward – to ser the principle of self-government at work […].’[2]

‘Divine task! Immortal mission! […] Let every American heart open wide for patriotism to glow undimmed, and confide with religious faith in the sublime and prodigious destiny of his well-loved country’.[3]


[1] Emmerich, Alexander: The Wild West: Myth and History, p.4.

[2] Porsche, Michael: The American Frontier - Go West, young man, p 4.

[3] Porsche, Michael: The American Frontier - Go West, young man, p.132.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
833 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Paderborn – Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik
2013 (September)
significance western myth america



Titel: The Significance of the Western Myth in modern America