Stegners View of the True Hero of the West

The West home on the range where the deer and the antelope play; where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the sky is not cloudy all day. The romantic idea of the land west of the hundredth meridian has often inspired songs and poetry, like this one, about idyllic conditions in this dry paradise. Often these ideas did not prove to be completely accurate, and a very few people attempted to present the facts to the public to dispel the romantic ideas of an effortless existence in these western lands. John Wesley Powell was one of these people. Wallace Stegner viewed Powell as a champion for science and one of the true heroes of this time because he did not follow the romantic ideas that so many of his contemporaries held about settlement in the West. One of the men Stegner presented as the epitome of Western romanticism was the Honorable William Gilpin, who eventually became the first territorial governor of Colorado. Throughout Stegners book, he used Gilpin as a contrast to Powell, who represented science. Gilpin was the example of the people that Stegner believed to be enamored with the idea of the West as a huge frontier, able to support millions, without looking at the facts and examining the situation from a scientists point of view. He pointed out several differences in Powell and Gilpin that illustrate how he believed Powell to be the hero, even though he was never recognized as one, and Gilpin to be a dreamer. Stegner gave several examples to prove that the loudest promoters of settlement were often ignorant of the lands in which they lived, which proved that they were in fact, unable to determine whether the West was ready to be settled. One of the examples Stegner used was the fact that Gilpin believed all Indian tribes to be the same. In his zeal to promote Western settlement, he made the statement that with settlement in these lands came …

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