The Lone Star Ranger
is pure American mythology. Outlaw-gunfighter-turned-Texas-Ranger Buckley Duane would fit in any advertisement for Stetson or Marlboro. He's tall, dark, handsome, bloodthirsty, and passionately romantic. Love and murder war for supremacy in his life, with constant vigilance required to ensure civilization/love/family holds sway over chaos/hate/lone-wolfism:
It would come back--that wind of flame, that madness to forget, that driving, relentless instinct for blood. It would come back with those pale, drifting, haunting faces and the accusing fading eyes, but all [Duane's] life, always between them and him, rendering them powerless, would be the faith and love and beauty of this noble woman.
Even a "noble woman" like Ray Longstreth has limited agency in Zane Grey's lawless world of Southwestern Texas. Fathers and outlaws--the gun- and physical power-wielders--make most of the decisions. Women are kidnapped or married off for advantage. In many ways, they're pawns in a deadly game between groups of men who can't control their bloodlust. Grey depicts most men as savages and/or heroes; most women saints and/or damsels in distress. I'm grateful for the hard questioning of gender roles that has occurred between Grey's day and now.
In the end, I certainly don't like this book for its naive and unfortunate portrayal of male/female relationships. I don't like the assumption that the bloodlust of the father inevitably must mark the life of the son. (We do have a choice in the matter, I believe.) What I did like, however, is the window Grey provides into the "ideal" of heroic individualism, of the conflict between the desire to achieve something great on one's own and to be in close relationship with others. There is a common good, after all, and personal, social and political lives often involve struggle to find balance between personal liberty and responsibility to something greater. Grey does a laudable job of getting at this angel/devil-on-the-shoulder interior conflict.