Butcher’s Crossing

by

Author: John Edward Williams

Title: Butcher’s Crossing

Genre: Western / Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1960

Number of Pages: 240

Geographical Setting: Kansas / Colorado

Time Period: 1870s

Plot Summary: Naïve college boy Will Andrews flees his Harvard education for the wide open spaces of the West, where he hopes to find himself. In the Kansas frontier town of Butcher’s Crossing, Andrews hooks up with a hunter named Miller and ends up bankrolling a buffalo hunting expedition to Colorado. Andrews, Miller and the two other men in their crew endure an arduous journey, from survival mode in the wilderness to the ugly process of killing and skinning buffalo. After a point it becomes clear that hunting buffalo is not just an occupation for Miller, but a dangerous obsession—and Andrews is thrown into personal turmoil as his romantic notions of the West and nature are shattered by the grim reality of their journey.

Subject Headings: Western stories; Revisionist westerns; Buffalo hunting; Frontier life; Coming-of-age stories; Man vs. nature

Appeal: austere, cinematic, coming-of-age, descriptive, detailed, evocative, gritty, intense, physical, realistic, relaxed pace, strong sense of place, vivid

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: descriptive, gritty, physical

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Border and the Buffalo by John R. Cook [Memoir by an actual buffalo hunter that gives a detailed, first-hand account of the buffalo slaughter that occurred in the western territories during this time, as well as other descriptions of frontier life]

2) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer [Idealistic young intellectual tries to brave the wilderness]

3) The Buffalo Hunters: The Story of the Hide Men by Mari Sandoz [Densely packed history of plains buffalo hunters]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Morning River by W. Michael Gear [Both a western and a coming-of-age story; about a naïve Harvard idealist who faces gritty hardship in the west; realistic, descriptive, detailed]

2) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy [Revisionist western, also about a massacre (of Indians rather than Buffalo) and the harshness of wilderness; gritty, intense, descriptive; Butcher’s Crossing often cited as precursor to this novel]

3) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry [Western about an arduous journey; relaxed pace, gritty, descriptive]

Name: Brian W.

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