Code of the West (1923)

31 May
The Code of the West

Hide with Cedar / Cypress Frame; Code of the West Drag Rider;
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The Country Gentleman, May 5 – July 7 1923
P. F. Collier & Son 1934

When googling “Code of the West”, Zane Grey, a lot of city sites turned up that referred to Zane Grey’s definition of the Code of the West as a basis for the way they felt their area was perceived by its citizens. Because of that I am going to include an extract from Dr. Joe Wheelers essay on why we ought to read Zane Grey (reviews below):

Loyalty. A cowboy took pride in being loyal to his “brand.” The highest compliment a man could receive in the Old West was: “He’ll do to ride the river with.”

Friendship. There was no more sacred obligation than to be there when your friend needed you.

Hospitality. Anyone who wandered in – even an enemy – was welcome at the table. The same was true for riders who joined cowboys on the range.

Fair Play. Westerners despised duplicity or under-handedness of any kind.

Liquor. Drinking on duty was grounds for instant dismissal and blacklisting.

Generosity. Most cowboys were generous to a fault.

Curiosity. It was dangerous to inquire into what someone was back “in the states.”

Kindness. Consideration for others was central to the Code.

The Environment. The cowboy … had no tolerance for those who would disfigure trees or rocks.

Integrity: Honesty was an absolute.

Religion: Living by the Golden Rule.

Credit: Tonto Basin Ranger District

Credit: Tonto Basin Ranger District

Zane Grey has been mocked for the values portrayed in his novels. He was mocked by “citified” people back when he wrote his novels. But in general this does seem to be how Zane Grey thought people ought to behave. What we tend to forget about the romance part of his novels is that romance was portrayed just this way back around 1900. His attitudes toward women that are portrayed in his novels were the rule of the time rather than the exception. Zane Grey’s own life did not exactly follow his novels when it came to women. As Grey himself wrote “The cowboys all had secrets” (Thomas H. Pauly). His “secret” was women – a lot of women.

When Georgianna arrives at Tonto Basin in Arizona, it should come as no surprise to us that she has been sent there by her parents and doctor for a change of scenery. It seems Georgianna had gotten herself lung problems due to all of her dancing and gadding about. Fortunately, her sister, Mary Stockwell is on the scene ready to take care of her younger sister and to show her how life should really be lived. But it seems Georgianna has realized something perhaps Mary has not. Men and women did not/do not stand on equal terms and this is something Zane Grey lets on that he was aware of as well by writing Georgianna’s character.

Cal Thurman is the love that is set aside as Georgianna’s suitor. Mary and Enoch also come together in Code of the West, although without all of the bumps of Cal and Georgianna’s relationship.

Code of the West on Amazon






Code of the West: Trademark no. 3709620, 2009

Rider of the Purple Prose

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Posted by on 2014-05-31 in Books


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