Biography of Walter Van Tiburg

Walter Van Tilburg was born in 1909, August 3 in the East Orland, the USA. He used to be an American novelist, educator and the writer of the short stories. Clark was one of the most famous and talented Nevada’s literary persons of the 20th century. This writer managed to apply the familiar records of the western saga to describe the inner human world. Walter started his writing career in Cazenovia, New York. Here he taught English at the high school. The Ox-Bow Incident is his first published writing. It contained no traditional formulaic and clichés plots and that is why it became rather popular. A bit later after publication, the novel was taken as a plot to a movie The Portable Phonograph followed The Ox-Bow Incident and was well known. It received an Academy Award nomination for the Best Picture. The public liked Clark’s short stories as well. Two of them – Hook and The Wind and the Snow of Winter – were frequently called classic examples of short stories. During his life Walter had several academic positions and was known for his good teaching skills. Thus, he occupied the position of the professor of the creative writing at the Montana University in Missoula during the 1950th. Then Clark served as the writer-in-residence at this university until he died.

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The plot

Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark starts when Art and Gil Carter are crossing the Eastern Divide. They were travelling for a long time and that is why were eager to find any signs of civilization. Art and Gil are five years together and get used to each other. Even silence is not a problem for these people. The two arrive at a small town called Bridger’s Wells. It looks like a traditional frontier town. Then they go to Darby’s Saloon and see that the atmosphere there is awful. This is because of the recent unpleasant events including the cattle-rustling. Every person is eager to find and catch the thieves. Gil tries to hide his sorrow because of the girlfriend with the help of alcohol. Some people suspect Art and Gil in the crimes because they do not often appear in the town. This becomes the reason for numerous conflicts. After a local rancher is killed, the town people organize the posse in order to find the criminals. Art and Gil make a decision to join them. Soon the passé finds three men (Donald Martin, Juan Martinez, and Alva Hardwicke). They are considered to be the ones who have stolen the cattle. The town people decide to hang them. The three behave differently when they get to know about their fortune. Thus, Martin wants to deliver a letter to his wife. Juan tries to escape and is shot. In the end of the novel it turns out that Lawrence Kinkaid is not killed and the ones who have shot him are arrested. All people participating in the posse gather in Darby’s Saloon and drink. Major Tetley commits a suicide after his son tells him everything he thinks about the situation. Gil reads martin’s letter to Art and they decide to deliver it to his wife.

Theme of the story

The major theme of Ox-Bow Incident is closely connected with law and order. In particular, the author touched upon the topic of their necessity. The problem in the writing starts when a gang of cattle rustlers appear in Bridger’s Wells. The town people in this place are sure that it is necessary to find the ones who did the crime. However, it turns out that the posse shot a person and spent time on searches in vain. They are just a group of people who are eager to gain fame and recognition, but do not know how to take an innocent person and a liar apart. The author wants to teach a certain moral with the help of the above-mentioned topic. It is not enough just to have the desire in order to maintain order and law. It is necessary to possess the specific skills and wisdom for this.

Walter Van Tilburg Clark also shows that it is dangerous to follow the crowd with the only purpose – to be accepted by it. The crowd can be wrong and even commit a crime. That is why it is necessary to follow one’s own path and be attentive. Art and Gil were suspected in stealing the cattle; that is why they took part in the passé. However, they turned to be the only people who believed that the three men were innocent. The fear of becoming social outcasts made the protagonists to participate in a silly action. This situation makes the story relevant to the contemporary life when people have to follow the crowd to avoid problems and misunderstanding with the ones they are dependent on.


The mood of the book under consideration is rather tragic. It is a novel about the American West in the period of this expansion. That is why Ox-Bow Incident will be interesting for all those who are eager to learn more about this period and its people. I think that Walter Van Tilburg Clark wrote this novel for the general public. However, it will be a useful story for scholars. The author managed to combine a historical context and the plot that can be interesting for the people belonging to all generations. I am sure that the book is worth reading as it helps to broaden one’s scope. It is didactic and demonstrates the consequences of being an irresolute and weak willed person. The writer teaches not to follow the crowd and make one’s own decisions.  Moreover, Clark wrote each sentence so that the reader feels that he is one of the characters participating in the passé. I would recommend Ox-Bow Incident written by Walter Van Tilburg Clark to everyone who likes taking some lessons from the pages he/she reads. It will be interesting for the sophisticated readers.

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