In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

158 Western American Literature how the novel ends, but the author’s mind looking back, arranging, adding dimensions missed, seeing, that compels interest. Black Sun is, I think, much more profound than it looks. T h o m a s J. L y o n , Utah State University Arfive. By A. B. Guthrie, Jr. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970. 278 pages, $5.95.) Admirers of Boone and Jim, looking for them again as mature men or for their heirs, will be disappointed in Arfive, the 70-year-old Guthrie’s fourth major novel, the first since These Thousand Hills in 1956. Arfive, as a small eastern-slope Montana community, is the outgrowth of Mort Ewing’s R5 brand which was developed and stabilized on his gamble with “a gravel bed” and irrigation water to produce wild hay. The book, short by Guthrie stand­ ards, is in three parts, covering roughly the twenty years before President Wil­ son’s second term. Benton Collingsworth, the Indiana school teacher of high intellect, strong passion, and Victorian principles, at home in what he thinks of as Thoreau’s West, and Mort Ewing, the forty-year-old rancher who has devoted his life to his land and brand, dominate the book as foils and counter­ points in facing change. Indeed, one reading Arfive and Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock simultane­ ously recognizes the future shock of a raw congregation of end-of-the-frontier individuals assuming the turn-of-the-century amenities of civilization. The shock of accepting education, law and order, social concern and welfare, railroads, electricity, modern plumbing, automobiles, and “outsiders” was as traumatic to this breed as is facing technocracy and space today. Guthrie, ever the true artist of selectivity and portrayal, carves new figures in new wood. Little of the trilogy, but for a fleeting passage now and then, is here. Here is not strictly, as is likely to be acclaimed, a continuation of the old tale but a new one, with new concerns Extent of autobiographical content must be left to the scholars. Guthrie’s purpose continues to be the impact of nature and civilizing forces. He achieves a unity through both place and circuitous return to the two protagonists with whom the book opens, Benton and Mort, the one numbed, lonely, and despairing before middle age, the other beginning a new life in his prime. This closing one may interpret as Guthrie’s hope for the future. The plot is superbly tight despite its chronology. Selecting wisely the incidents to heighten to a climax in each part and capturing the reader at the end of each chapter are Guthrie’s forte, sweeping the reader along the while the images are seared in the mind. His characterization is brilliant. He paints with the deft Japanese brushstroke: “Ross had the face of a frog. .’’ . . . “an honest vulgarian unconscious of his insensitivity.” ; Kraker, “ the fool deputy sheriff, with the gun proud on his hip” ; “Howie, that weakgutted Republican” ; Benton—“ ‘He’s square-faced, medium tall, and, I would Reviews 159 say, built for action. Not puny by a hell of a sight.’ fall grass “the color of a mountain-lion pelt”; and “ the purple wall of the Rockies.” His women, however, are more like steel engravings: May Collingsworth, Mrs. Ross, Miss Carson, Eva Fox, Juliet Justice. These are real women, adding a new dimen­ sion in literary characterization of the women of the West. The theme is “change is the order of nature.” “But change is order and change can be reversion.” This is a book about change, not only as the order of nature but as its contradictions. Related to change is the wind: “The winds are blowing” throughout. And, yet, the winds blow themselves out, but not before they and loneliness drive Mrs. Ross back to New York and point up the contradictions of nature: Juliet Justice, orphaned daughter of an itinerant editor earns her degree at the University of Montana; Miss Carson, teacher of promise, despoils the breed girl and her own life; Eva Fox, the madam, rises to respectability in taking over Soo Son’s restaurant; Benton, lover of books, wears out one wife as Mort, tied to...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 158-159
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.