beacon, even as an entrenched castle, and gives no indicationnof a concern for the relationship of the city to the hill;nthe actual physical environment is simply not central to thenessential idea.nFrom the beginning, then, the American “West” hasnbeen a land inscribed. One would have to look long andnhard to find evidence of an explorer or setder who movednwestward looking for a genuinely “new” world. In announcingnthat he had sailed “from Spain to the Indies,” Columbusngeographically defined the “new” quite literally in terms ofnthe “old,” and those who followed continued his lead:nconsequently, we have names like St. Augustine, NewnAmsterdam, New Canaan, Boston, and New York. Then”new” wodd had to be converted: the West became thenEast, and gardens were brought forth from a “wilderness”—na word which Roderick Nash has defined etymologicallynas “the place of wild beasts” and therefore a wodd ofnterror, the home of satanic forces needing to be transformednor exterminated.nWhile seeking a “New” Wodd, the original settlers andnlater the immigrants arrived with most of their preservedn”Old” World assumptions intact. They could assert thenelement of the “new” in a name like New England, but then”old” was established as their point of reference: it was stillnNew England. Settlers sought the potential of free land, butndistrusted “wilderness.” We should not be surprised, therefore,nto find that the attitude to the “Western frontier,”nwhile acknowledging wilderness as a source of possibility,nnevertheless predicated an ever-shifting “line in the sand,” anworld beyond the confines of civilization and one needing tonbe tamed and converted to a civilized state. Lines had to bendrawn — fences erected, swamps drained, and forestsncleared — to say nothing of the clearing away of earnernpigeons, buffalo, and the native humans.nInstances of “lines in the sand” are readily apparent innAmerican history and literature. William Byrd’s 1725 surveynline between North Carolina and Virginia was drawnnpresumably to protect civilization from the sloth andnlascivious behavior of those individuals associated with thenDismal Swamp in particular and the wilderness in general.nMary Rowlandson’s constant quoting of the Bible in hern1675 Narrative serves to maintain the sense of a divinennarrative within which she could define and thus comprehendnher captivity; Ahab’s oceanographic charts allow himnto draw the lines of the white whale’s wake upon the waterynexpanse; and the tracks carved into the prairies by thenpassing of setders’ wagons figure prominently in a narrativenlike Gather’s My Antonia. The rails of the transcontinentalnrailroad cut buffalo migration patterns. Common in eachninstance, perhaps because it grows out of assumptions ofn”bastions against barbarism,” is the stance of the inscriber atna remove from his environment; the fragility of the inscribednsurface; and the subsequent involvement of the inscribernwith the wodd inscribed (Ahab dragged down into the oceannby the same lines with which he has attached himself to thenwhale being perhaps the most vivid instance).nAs setders sought new land in the West, they continuednto provide instances of their distrust of environment,ntheir rejection of surfaces, and their inscription of landscapesnwith physical and verbal lines intended to defend against thenencroaching wilderness; the West, then, has from thenbeginning been simultaneously idealized for what it mightnbecome and rejected for what it is. Consequendy, from thenhands of those who created the popular Western, we getneither one version or the other of the narrative: ThenVirginian, Riders of the Purple Sage, and Shane present anWest drawn by those who choose to see the wodd beyondnthe frontier as something akin to a land of Oz. On the othernhand, encouraged to “Go West” into the land of opportunity,nsettlers frequendy regarded the journey as one betweenncenters of civilization across landscape at best barren, atnworst savage. It is not surprising, therefore, to find thatnamong the most frequent images in popular Westernnnarrative is that of the fort, the embodiment of both physicalnand mental inscription. John Ford’s movies and LouisnL’Amour’s novels build upon this pattern and topography.nIn Ford’s Stagecoach, we watch a fragile four-wheeled box,nthe construct of a threatened civilization, pulled (by horsesnoriginally imported from Europe; it has no power of its own)nthrough land held by attacking Apaches toward the appropriatelynnamed town of Lordsburg.nJohn Ford’s eye does not embrace the land; his interest innthe American West is almost entirely in terms of the threatnto what he sees as the national story of mission. Defendednfortresses in the form of forts and towns dominate his work,nas do highly conventional social occasions — dances, fornexample, or meals. Even when he goes out of his way to callnattention to the world outside the fort, Ford chooses to castnthe “other” in such non-native American actors as SalnMineo and Henry Brandon; we cannot even speak of thesen”Indians” as marginalized, for the casting evidences thatn”Indians” do not exist visually for Ford, any more than theyndo verbally. To whatever extent we recognize John Ford as anrepresentative 20th-century artist, his movies indicate an eyenfor the abstract “model” and a literal inability to see thenworld outside the circled wagons.nAnd we might keep in mind that the themenof individuals drawn from a world of stablenassumptions and moving into a new physicalnenvironment that challenges the stability ofnthose assumptions makes an ‘American’nstory synonymous with the ‘Western’ story.nThe two themes — the edenic and the satanic — arencorollary manifestations of the same mental stance, approachingnthe West as though it were “a City upon a Hill.”nNo reader, then, of some of the best Western Americannnarrative should be surprised by its themes of disillusionmentnand horror. Willa Gather, Man Sandoz, and OlenRolvaag write of immigrant experience so conditioned bynillusion that despair is the inevitable outcome. Mark Twain’snRoughing It, Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By, andnE.L. Doctorow’s We/come to Hard Times detail the experiencenof an Eastern culture entering new territory. Acts ofnnnNOVEMBER 1991/27n