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Photo: Owen Wister carrying a camera, no date. Owen Wister Papers.
Since its 1902 publication, The Virginian has left a lasting impact upon the American cultural landscape. In earlier years after its publication, The Virginian did much to popularize the American West. As a result, a romanticized view of the West became an integral part of the American popular imagination and cultural identity. In recent years, The Virginian has come under scrutiny. Wister’s portrayal of the West is seen by many as a myth at odds with reality.
Regardless of one’s opinions about the book, The Virginian has stood the test of time as the prototypical Western novel. By writing this book, Owen Wister created a basic Western formula that continues to be used to the present day.