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MonkeyNotes-The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
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Suddenly a young boy comes racing to the saloon on a horse. He dismounts and runs to the door in order to announce that Kinkaid, another hand on Drew's ranch, has been murdered. The news incites the men in the bar, and they pledge to find and punish the murderers, feeling certain that the cattle rustlers are responsible. Kinkaid's murder, therefore, becomes the instigating event of the real plot of the novel. The lawlessness is suddenly out of hand and will breed more lawlessness.

When Art and Gil leave Canby's saloon, they are feeling like true outsiders. Both men express, however, that they want to be accepted by the other men in Bridger's Wells. This feeling is also a key factor in the plot's development.


It is important to notice that this first chapter is filled with contrasts, which will be developed throughout the book. The opening sentence reveals that Gil and Art have crossed the western divide, indicating there is a change from the world of the east. The men have entered cowboy country, where living is hard, men are rough, and law and order is often absent. There is also a contrast between the little town of Bridger's Wells, a small outpost of civilization, and the big Ox Bow Valley, a symbol of untamed, open space. Before long, it become obvious that even though Gil and Art are good friends, they are very different. Gil is aggressive, prone to fighting, and sure of himself; in contrast, Art is more cautious, contemplative, and quiet.

Another contrast that is presented in the opening chapter is between doing what is expected in cowboy society versus doing what is morally right. All of these men are worried about fitting in and being accepted, especially the newcomers Art and Gil. Even when the men know something is wrong, they will not stand up against it for fear of being ridiculed by the other cowboys and roughnecks. Several of the men who join the posse feel that a lynching party is wrong, but they would never think of not joining for fear of being called weak.

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