Wright, Harold Bell: The Winning of Barbara Worth
(researched by Nicole Yankush)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
The Book Supply Company, Chicago, August 19,1911.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition was published in a maroon leather hardback with gold lettering and a paper dustjacket.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
256 leaves, 512 pages, 6 plates. Pages 1-10 unnumbered, pages 11-511 numbered (except for p. 95, a map), page 512 unnumbered. Bound 1-12, 13-42, plate-66, 67-94, 95-plate, 121-162, 163-190, 191-226, 227-264, 265-302, plate-324, 325-354, 355-386, 38
7-plate, 415-444, 445-474, 475-512.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
This book is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
6 plates by F. Graham Cootes
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book has an attractive dustjacket, with a portrait of Barbara Worth on the front, between the title and author's name, along with a
line identifying Harold Bell Wright as the "Author of 'The Shepherd of the Hills,' etc.,etc." The spine of the dustjacket has the title and author at the top, and the price "$1.30 Net" and the publisher's name at the bottom. On the back of the dustja
cket there is a blurb giving a sketchy overview of the (rather thin-sounding) plot and a description of Harold Bell Wright's works in general. The cover itself is an attractive, seemingly high quality maroon leather with gold lettering that has not faded
. The typography is very readable, and is a good size (not too large or small). Each chapter heading and chapter title are in all capitals, like the title page. The first letter of the first word of each chapter is larger and enclosed in an ornamental
box with a curclicue design. The bottom margins of each page are larger than the top margins, except for the pages with chapter headings.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper in the copy I examined appeared to be durable and holding up well over time. There was a bit of yellow
ing at the outside edges, but no smudging or fading of the print. The paper feels sturdy to the touch. The paper dustjacket in in remarkably condition. There are no major tears, and no smudges or stains at all.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding in the copy I examined was st
ill in great shape after eighty seven years. There were only two places where the pages had come a little bit loose, exposing some of the stitching, at pages 162-163 and pages 226-227.
12 Transcription of title page
THE WINNING OF/BARBARA WORTH/[approx. 2.5cm]BY/HAROLD BELL WRIGHT/A
UTHOR OF/"THE CALLING OF DAN MATTHEWS"/"THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS"/"THAT PRINTER OF UDELL'S"/[approx. 2.5cm] With Illustrations by/F. GRAHAM COOTES/[approx. 2.5 cm]THE BOOK SUPPLY COMPANY/PUBLISHERS,CHICAGO
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The original handwritten manuscript is on display at the Pioneer's Museum in Imperial County, California where the novel was set. In addition, a handwritten manuscript is held at the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
There is an (unci
ted)epigraph on unnumbered page :"Give fools their gold, and knaves their power;/Let fortune's bubbles rise and fall;/Who sows a field, or trains a flower,/Or plants a tree, is more than all."
I wish to gratefully acknowledge the many Alderman Librarians, particularly Susan, without whom this assignment (especially #14) could never have been completed.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
No other editions were found.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
No information was unavailable concerning printings and impressions of the first edition.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
A.L.
Burt and Company, 1911, 1913, 1914. Grosset and Dunlap, 1911, 1939, 1966. D. Appleton and Company, 1924, 1932. Buccaneer Books, Incorporated, 1975 (hardback). Macmillan Library Reference, January, 1983 (hardback, large print). Thorndike Press, 1983 (large print). Holtville Tribune, Holtville Printing and Graphics Facsimilie reprint, 1987 (large print). The Quellen Company, April 1987, December 1, 1998 (hardback). Pelican Publishing Company, Incorporated, April 1999. Classic Books, June 1999.
6 Last date in print?
The book is still in print as of 1999. The Harold Bell Wright Society recently had an edition published by The Quellen Company in December of 1998. It features a preface by the author's son, Norman Wright, and an introduction by Wright's biographer,
Lawrence Tagg. Appendices describe the writing of the book, Harold Bell Wright-related tourist attractions, the plays, the movie, and Barbara Worth collectibles. New editions will be released by the Pelican Publishing Company in April of 1999 and by Cl
assic Books in June 1999, as part of The Collected Works of Harold Bell Wright Series.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
9,000,000 hardbound copies had been sold by 1975.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
No sales figures were available for individual years.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
A full page advertisement by Edwin Shuman ran in the Chica
go Record-Herald, August 20, 1911, shortly before the book's release. The top two lines read "PRINTING THE WORLD'S GREATEST FIRST EDITION OF A NOVEL." Beneath these lines one of the book's illustrations by F. Graham Cootes appears on the left, and on
the right appear the lines "It Is Being Done in Chicago. The First Printing Runs to 500,000 Copies--Possibly More." The column on the right continues with an interview with Wright entitled "The Picturesque Career of the Author." The original publisher,
The Book Supply Company of Chicago also ran full page ads in small town and church newspapers (recognizing who Wright's main readers were). These ads had illustrations of the first edition with the red and gold clothbound cover and dustjacket, the opti
onal tan "ooze calf cover" costing an additional 70 cents (over the $1.30 price), and the "special Barbara package band," which would wrap every copy ordered between November 1, 1911 and January 1, 1912, and which would be avaiable free after January upon
request. These ads began by quoting the Philadelphia North American in the top two lines: "Best sellers run away and hide when the author of 'The Shepherd of the Hills' comes into the running." The ad then describes the novel as "A Present-Day Story
of Reclamation and Love" and "A book that will mould and make nations."
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The book was sold in advance of its publication through advertisements (see #9).
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
There have been three play versions written, though only two were produced. The actor/playwri
ght Edwin Milton Royle, author of the popular play The Squaw Man (which toured all over the world and became one of the first Hollywood movies) adapted Barbara Worth into a three act play. Edith Lyle played Barbara and Richard Gordon played Willard Holme
s, and the show opened in Chicago. Reviewer Percy Hammond of The Chicago Daily News declared in his September 1913 column that Royle had taken the novel and gone "through it as Sherman through Georgia, leaving neither temple nor tower, but a chaos of rui
ns..." A more popular and successful stage version was later written by actor/playwright Mark Swan, and was reputed to have spectacular scenic effects, particularly the sandstorm and the raging Colorado River. Another play version was written in 1997, a
nd was designed to be presented as a reading by a small group of players. It was never produced. The silent movie premiered in Boston, in November of 1926. It was the first time that a tornado had been captured on film. Samuel Goldwyn bought the story rights for $125,000. The movie ended up costing over $1,000,000 to make, and took a cast of 10,00
0 a year to film. Vilma Banky starred as Barbara and Ronald Colman co-starred as Wiillard Holmes. A young, unknown stuntman named Gary Cooper was cast as Abe Lee at the last minute. The movie was a success in its day, though Wright received no royalties
. Goldwyn's archives, including Barbara Worth, are now owned by Ted Turner.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
No translations were discovered.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
The novel was serialized in 1926 in the Tucson Citizen. It appeared in six installments.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
No sequels or prequels have been written.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Harold Bell Wright was born on May 4, 1872 to William and Alma Wright in Rome, New York. William Wright had reached the rank of lieutenant fighting for the Union during the Civil War, but after the war he was les
s successful, working as a carpenter and moving his family around frequently. Alma was remembered as a loving, nurturing mother who attempted to compensate for the indifference of his alcoholic father and for the family's extreme poverty. She instilled
a love for beauty and for reading in her sons, despite the wretched conditions in which the family lived. When Wright was eleven years old he ended his sporadic schooling permanently to care for his sick mother and his two younger brothers. When Alma Wri
ght died that year, the children were divided up among relatives and neighbors. By the age of twelve, Wright had become self-supporting. He worked in a bookstore where he had a cot in a back room and received leftovers from the shopowner's family for me
als. In the bookshop, young Harold was able to read after hours and on weekends, continuing his education (Tagg, vi-vii). As an adult, Wright was able to receive some formal education; he spent two years at Hiram College in Hiram Ohio.
In his early twenties, Wright began to have serious health problems from the tuberculosis that was to plague him for the rest of his life, and he moved to the Ozark mountains on the advice of his physician. Wright took a temporary post as a preacher in a
two-room log schoolhouse church, and later became a pastor for several different churches for the Church of the Disciples from 1897-1908. He pastored churches in Pittsburgh, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Lebanon, Missouri; and Redlands, California. In
1899 Wright married Frances Long. They had three sons, but eventually divorced. He married his second wife, Winifred Potter Duncan in 1920. Wright's first novel, That Printer of Udell's, was published in 1903, when he was 31 and working as a pastor i
n Pittsburgh. Wright was influenced by Charles Sheldon's ideas of social gospel (Martine 189). The semi-autobiographical novel was originally intended to be read to Wright's congregation serially, as part of his efforts to make religion seem more a par
t of everyday life.
After the success of his first novel, Wright decided to attempt to deliberately write a novel for publication. The Shepherd of the Hills was published in 1907 and was so successful that, faced with his continuing health problems, Wright decided to give u
p the stressful job in the ministry permanently for a career as a writer. He settled in the Imperial Valley in Southern California on his Tecolote Ranch, where he was to remain for most of his life. Wright wrote his next three novels, The Calling of Dan
Matthews (1909), The Winning of Barbara Worth (1911), and The Eyes of the World (1914) in a hand-built arrow-weed studio behind his house. In 1915, Wright moved to Tucson, Arizona temporarily, for health reasons. In 1922 Wright reportedly sold the movi
e rights to his novels for roughly one million dollars to Principle Pictures. The former pastor with the $400 a year income had become a wealthy and successful author-Wright had achieved the American dream and become another rags to riches success story
(Tagg, ix-xi).
Although his works were scorned by critics for their blatant sweet sentimentality and allegory, he was adored by the middle and lower classes, particularly in the Midwest and West. Wright never strove to achieve a place in literature; his goal was to rea
ch and uplift the masses. He said "I have desired only to rank with my own people-the people of whom I am one and to whom I belong as wholly today as I did in those days when I labored with the tools of a stone quarry instead of a pen." He is credited wi
th being the most popular American author in the years 1909-1921 (Martine, 189, 193). He wrote nineteen novels, of which The Shepherd of the Hills and The Winning of Barbara Worth were the most successful (Tagg, xi).
Wright died May 24, 1944 at the age of seventy-two in San Diego. He was cremated and his ashes were buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in a plot of sand from Imperial Valley (the setting for Barbara Worth). His tombstone, in the shape of a book, contains
a passage from the book of Isaiah that had served as inspiration for Barbara Worth: " and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose" (Tagg, xiii). Wright's papers can be found at Indiana University, the University of California at Los Angeles,
and the University of Arizona.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Winning of Barbara Worth received little attention when it was published in 1911. It was marketed specifically for fans of Wright's earlier novels, which had already received their share of critical contempt. Thus Barbara Worth was easily dismissed by critics and reviewers. Harold Bell Wright had already established his reputation for wholesome and morally edifying novels and gained a large audience with his previous bestsellers, The Shepherd of the Hills (1907) and its sequel The Calling of Dan Matthews (1909). Barbara Worth never had a chance to stand on its own because it was constantly compared to Wright's earlier novels. Most critics seemed to find it only slightly better. Reviewers had already classified Wright as a writer of essentially sentimental, moralistic drivel, and Barbara Worth did nothing to change their opinions, although a few did feel that Wright was perhaps improving his prose style. Reviews were remarkably homogeneous. The New York Times described Wright's modest improvements thus: "The story...is better in construction, more closely and smoothly knit together, than his previous novels, and his style shows improvement, though he still dearly loves the adjective. Since the author's large audience has liked so well his previous stories it is probable that it will find this one still more pleasing." Despite its popularity with everyday Americans, reviewers were hard on The Winning of Barbara Worth. W.A. Bradley, in the Bookman, faintly praises Wright's efforts to tackle the ambitious topic of desert reclamation in the Colorado River region, but like all the other critics, did not fail to dwell on Wright's shortcomings as a novelist: "The story has in its scale and scope, much of that vague epic quality which occasionally redeems in a measure the crass physical crudity of contemporary American fiction...[But] Sheer sentimentality is a vice which infects the very fibre of Mr. Wright's mental fabric and which, constituting no doubt, a prime virtue for his admirers, goes far towards explaining his popular success as a novelist." Other reviewers were similarly condescending towards Wright and his audience. The novel was criticized for its excessive length (over 500 pages), and its dullness. According to the A.L.A. Booklist, "The story would have gained interest by condensation, and the style is singularly lacking in distinction."Payne, writing for the Dial, tried to be more positive towards the novel as a whole although he too cannot resist criticizing Wright's style: "In spite of its long-windedness, and of the stretches which rival its own desert in aridity, the story is not unmoving or unsatisfying, and we can see in it many of the elements of popularity." While critics found almost nothing praiseworthy in any of the novels of Harold Bell Wright, the fictional sermons of this former preacher were thoroughly enjoyed by millions of the American people. Book Review Digest The New York Times, August 20, 1911
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Winning of Barbara Worth received little attention when it was published in 1911. It was marketed specifically for fans of Wright's earlier novels, which had already received their share of critical contempt. Thus Barbara Worth was easily dismissed by critics and reviewers. Harold Bell Wright had already established his reputation for wholesome and morally edifying novels and gained a large audience with his previous bestsellers, The Shepherd of the Hills (1907) and its sequel The Calling of Dan Matthews (1909). Barbara Worth never had a chance to stand on its own because it was constantly compared to Wright's earlier novels. Most critics seemed to find it only slightly better. Reviewers had already classified Wright as a writer of essentially sentimental, moralistic drivel, and Barbara Worth did nothing to change their opinions, although a few did feel that Wright was perhaps improving his prose style. Reviews were remarkably homogeneous. The New York Times described Wright's modest improvements thus: "The story...is better in construction, more closely and smoothly knit together, than his previous novels, and his style shows improvement, though he still dearly loves the adjective. Since the author's large audience has liked so well his previous stories it is probable that it will find this one still more pleasing." Despite its popularity with everyday Americans, reviewers were hard on The Winning of Barbara Worth. W.A. Bradley, in the Bookman, faintly praises Wright's efforts to tackle the ambitious topic of desert reclamation in the Colorado River region, but like all the other critics, did not fail to dwell on Wright's shortcomings as a novelist: "The story has in its scale and scope, much of that vague epic quality which occasionally redeems in a measure the crass physical crudity of contemporary American fiction...[But] Sheer sentimentality is a vice which infects the very fibre of Mr. Wright's mental fabric and which, constituting no doubt, a prime virtue for his admirers, goes far towards explaining his popular success as a novelist." Other reviewers were similarly condescending towards Wright and his audience. The novel was criticized for its excessive length (over 500 pages), and its dullness. According to the A.L.A. Booklist, "The story would have gained interest by condensation, and the style is singularly lacking in distinction."Payne, writing for the Dial, tried to be more positive towards the novel as a whole although he too cannot resist criticizing Wright's style: "In spite of its long-windedness, and of the stretches which rival its own desert in aridity, the story is not unmoving or unsatisfying, and we can see in it many of the elements of popularity." While critics found almost nothing praiseworthy in any of the novels of Harold Bell Wright, the fictional sermons of this former preacher were thoroughly enjoyed by millions of the American people. Book Review Digest The New York Times, August 20, 1911
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Harold Bell Wright, though largely unknown today, outsold any other author during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Even now, fans travel to visit the Harold Bell Wright Museum and Theater in Branson, Missouri, his former home in Pittsburgh, Kansas which is maintained as a museum, and other Wright-related sites, including the Barbara Worth exhibit at the Pioneer's Museum of Imperial County, California. There are still Barbara Worth-related locations in Imperial County, including a golf resort and a junior high school that bear her name. Clearly, Wright stirred his audience and his fans remained life-long devotees, despite Wright's dismissal by reviewers and literary critics as simplistic, sentimentalist and trite. Wright's wholesome stories appealed to the American public during the turbulent pre-war years, when lifestyles and values were rapidly changing. The Winning of Barbara Worth, published in 1911, was Wright's first novel to make the annual bestseller list, as five of his subsequent novels did (1914, 1916, 1919/1920, 1922, 1923). Wright's fan base continued to grow until the mid-1920s, when his socially conservative, simple stories of morally upright citizens making the world a better place no longer fared as well against more penetrating, socially critical works like Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt (which tied with Wright's Helen of the Old House as the number ten best-seller of 1922). Wright had already published three very successful novels when The Winning of Barbara Worth was published, but they had gained popularity steadily over time and so were not bestsellers in any one year. That Printer of Udell's (1903), The Shepherd of the Hills (1907) and its sequel The Calling of Dan Matthews (1909) had established Wright's popularity and reputation. The Book Supply Company advertised Barbara Worth in advance, and it was primarily marketed towards Wright's existing audience. Advertisements appeared in small town and church newsletters in the West and Midwest. The book was set to come out in November, and copies ordered in advance would be shipped with a festive "Barbara package band" (featuring the cover illustration of the title character) for the Christmas season. The publisher expected Wright fans to order advance copies for themselves and as Christmas presents, and counted on word-of-mouth to continue sales in 1912. Advance copies came with a postcard for the reader to pass on to a friend, calling The Winning of Barbara Worth "One of the best books I have ever read" (Burke, 370-374). Despite being released so late in the year, Barbara Worth became the third highest selling work of fiction in 1911 and was number six in 1912. The Winning of Barbara Worth remained popular. Two play versions were produced, and in 1926 Samuel Goldwyn bought the rights to make it into a silent movie for $125,000. The million-dollar production, filmed in the Black Rock desert of Nevada, took a crew of 10,000 a year to make. Few movies up to that time were such lavish and expensive productions. A miniature city was constructed at "Barbara Worth, Nevada" for the crew, with full plumbing and sanitation, housing, kitchens, a mess hall, a recreation center, a hospital, etc, as the crew was expected to remain in the desert for the duration of the filming. The film was a huge success, and is still notable for being the screen debut of a then-unknown stuntman named Gary Cooper (Burke, 381-386). Harold Bell Wright's wholesome novels of personal integrity and achievement, and his natural settings appealed to the American public during the early twentieth century, at the very time when Americans were moving away from a simple life lived close to nature. The population was continuing to move from the country to the city, leaving behind community and family networks that had traditionally provided support. The 1920 census revealed that for the first time a majority of Americans lived in urban, not rural, areas. The mass production of goods and the consumer culture that would become so prevalent after the Great War were beginning, and some worried that the culture was becoming too materialistic. Technological innovations like the automobile and the telephone were spreading to more and more households, even rural ones, and the lifestyles of the average American were changing. Class conflict continued unabated, as it had from the late nineteenth century, especially in the cities, where the poor continued to live in wretched slums. The early twentieth century was an era of labor unrest, even in the rural areas, where the Populist Party and the grange movement had not yet completely died out. In the cities, strikes were common. Progressive reformers were attempting to clean up the cities, working to provide adequate housing and sanitation, and attacking everything from labor problems to liquor to prostitution. Reform movements brought the problems of the cities to the attention of the general population. It was at this time of rapid social changes and concern about where society was headed that Wright's novels became so popular. At a time when people were feeling unsettled, Wright reaffirmed traditional values while providing interesting and entertaining (i.e. escapist) stories. Wright's novels were a reaction to social changes, reasserting man's connection to nature and reaffirming the belief in man's inherent goodness, during a time of uncertainties. But The Winning of Barbara Worth was also a product of the early twentieth century, specifically of the strong belief in progress that was present in the pre-war decades. Progressive reformers and everyday Americans believed that the world was, for the most part, improving, that humanity was continually evolving to a higher and higher state. Man had achieved so much in the preceeding hundred years, and there was no reason to believe that the next hundred would not see achievements that were just as great. Thus the story of man reclaiming the desert, taming nature and making fertile farmland out of what had been a dry, barren waste, a "silent land of death" (111), was very appealing to Americans in 1911. The characters in Wright's novel believe that they are doing something great, something that will benefit all of mankind, not just the local citizens and settlers. With their example to follow, characters like the Seer envision similar desert reclamations makings the West bloom and providing food for the hungry nations of the world. The Winning of Barbara Worth represents a turning point in Wright's career. He had just moved from the Ozarks, the setting of his earlier novels, to southern California for health reasons. Barbara Worth was the first of three novels written in a handmade studio behind Wright's new home, the Tecolote Ranch near Redlands, California. Wright decided to set his new novel in the Southwest, and to base it on actual contemporary events, the desert reclamation work that was turning the deserts of California and Arizona into farmland. Wright did research and worked with civil engineers to get all the technical facts correct (Tagg, vi-xiii; Martine, 189). The Winning of Barbara Worth was quickly dismissed by reviewers, who had already formed opinions about Wright from his previous novels. Every reviewer made comparisons to Wright's earlier work, and while some acknowledged the greater scope of Barbara Worth, none failed to lump it in with the rest, labeling the novel moralistic, sentimental, simplistic drivel. Wright was especially criticized for his "long-windedness," his dullness, and above all for his repetitive, overly descriptive style. Indeed, by the end of the novel it does seem as if everyone has looked out at the desert and gotten all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings one too many times, and the repeated pilgrimages to Barbara's mother's grave serve only to make a potentially poignant setting lack power. The A.L.A. Booklist summed up the stylistic and formal problems of the novel (rather mildly compared to other contemporary reviewers), by stating that "the story would have gained interest by condensation, and the style is singularly lacking in distinction." (Book Review Digest, 1911). The reviewers were accurate in labeling Wright's works sentimental and overly moralistic; Wright himself would not have denied it. Wright, a former minister in the Church of the Disciples, was always trying to teach his readers a lesson. In The Winning of Barbara Worth, subtitled "The Ministry of Capital," Wright contrasts the business practices of Jefferson Worth with James Greenfield. Capital can work in two ways, according to Wright. It can be put to work building one man's private fortune or it can be invested into things that will benefit all men. Worth and Greenfield are blatantly allegorical, representing the good and the bad capitalist, a point which Wright goes out of his way to make clear. He describes Worth through the eyes of his workers, as being "the visible representative of that invisible power that willed their going forth. He was Capital-Money-Business incarnate," (Wright, 113). Worth and Greenfield are in competition over the development and settlement of the reclaimed desert land of the King's Basin (modeled after Imperial Valley, California). After his epiphany in the desert (123-126), Worth understands his daughter's passion for the desert and the importance of the reclamation work to the future progress of humanity. Worth has discovered a noble goal to put his Capital towards in the reclamation project, using money as it should be used, to benefit many and not just himself. Thus Worth refuses to become a part of Greenfield's company on ideological grounds. This refusal sets up the contrast between Worth and Greenfield, and begins the competition between them. Their power struggle in the King's Basin is the struggle between the archetypal greedy capitalist (Greenfield) and the idealized, honest, hardworking businessman (Worth) who works not just for profit but for the benefit of his fellow man as well. While Greenfield is preoccupied with wealth and social position, Worth is a simple, quiet man, in tune with nature, not unlike most of Wright's other heroes. Greenfield complains about how uncivilized the West is, while Worth appreciates the majestic beauty of the desert, and willingly accompanies his men in their explorations instead of staying in his comfortable home in town. Worth is scrupulously honest in his dealings, and his softer approach always pays off in the end. For example, Worth allows the settlers to buy on credit in his store, rewarding their hard work and pioneering spirit (153). In one of Wright's typically impossible plot manipulations, the allegorical businessmen get what they deserve in the end. The shoddy irrigation structures that Greenfield, concerned only with profits, refused to replace cannot withstand the flood, and the town Greenfield built, Kingston, is wiped out. Jefferson Worth's town, Barba, is spared, and to drive the point home, the new waterways created by the flood increase the power of Worth's hydroelectric plant, making him a millionaire (352). The other characters are less allegorical than Worth and Greenfield, but they are similarly flat. Some characters barely have names at all, but are referred to most often by a title. The visionary engineer who dreams of desert reclamation and gets the whole process started is referred to by everyone as simply, "the Seer," even by minor characters who do not know him at all, and in all likelihood would never have heard the nickname (Wright, 346). Mr. Burk, the manager of the King's Basin Land and Irrigation Company is referred to at least half of the time as "the thoughtful Manager" (285, etc), providing one of many possible examples of why reviewers complained that Wright "dearly loves the adjective," (New York Times, August 20, 1911). Even main characters are all too often referred to by a title; Abe Lee is "the surveyor," Willard Holmes is "the engineer," Texas Joe is "the frontiersman"? And since many of the male characters are so similar, the use of titles can lead to confusion. Wright never makes any attempt at character development. They are all nothing more than archetypes of the sort that can be found in all kinds of sub-par novels and movies throughout the twentieth century. Texas Joe is the experienced desert man, the standard, wise, son of the earth type, and his sidekick Pat Mooney is the pugnacious Irishman. Both sport abominably rendered accents. The Mexican characters are even more stereotyped and their broken English is just as wretched. Ynez, the housekeeper, is a servile shadow who never speaks. Pablo is sometimes treated as a comrade by the other male characters, but he knows his place and is always very deferential to Barbara and her father. The other Mexicans are the workers who help build the irrigation system, the towns and the railroad. They have no sense of the grandeur of their projects, they are just a bunch of ignorant "greasers" working for their next paycheck. It is the uncivilized, unreasonable Mexicans and Indians that nearly riot when their pay is late. Clearly they are all savages at heart, as Abe explains: "We have promised these greasers and Indians that we will pay tomorrow without fail. When we don't pay?They'll go on the warpath sure. If they were white men it would be different," (Wright, 273). Abe Lee's character is very much like Texas Joe; he is a capable, dependable man of the desert. This was the movie role that launched Gary Cooper's career, with his quiet, brooding charm nearly stealing the spotlight from Ronald Colman's Willard Holmes (Burke, 382-383). Abe Lee is the bashful, unassuming guy who's always around when you need him, knows just what to do in every situation, but who despite all his admirable qualities, just isn't dashing enough to have any hope of getting the girl. And then there's the girl. Barbara is the embodiment of pure, lovely young womanhood, with a Western flair. She is a beloved angel of mercy to the local unfortunates, as befits a rich man's daughter (Wright, 60). Besides sewing, cooking and bandaging the wounded when necessary, Barbara gets to ride horses and wear a revolver like a man. The most common adjective Wright uses to describe her is "red-blooded" (57). Lest the reader find her "bold and mannish and coarse and everything else that a girl ought not to be," (101) with her free-spirited and independent ways, Wright makes sure Barbara is confined to her proper place in the domestic sphere and that she properly defers to her father and to her love interest Willard Holmes. For example, though she is doubtless more capable and experienced than the city gentleman, Wright has Barbara lose control of her horses so that Holmes can take over driving the buggy, as is fitting for the man (101). The very qualities that make Barbara so attractive to the men in her life, her independence and her prowess as a horsewoman, are thus downplayed so that traditional gender roles can be reinforced. Wright's black-and-white plot and flat characters were to be expected from this largely self-educated former pastor, considering his previous work. Stereotyped female and minority characters were very common in his day, and perhaps should be largely overlooked, as they do not detract from Wright's point. He was concerned with creating an allegory about "Good Business-the master passion of the race," (one of Wright's favorite, oft-repeated phrases) using the backdrop of the desert reclamation work, and nothing more (Wright, 122). Wright did not strive for memorable characters, only for a memorable lesson. WORKS CITED Book Review Digest, 1911. Burke, Quentin, editor. Wright, Harold Bell. The Winning of Barbara Worth. Holtville, CA: The Quellen Company for the Harold Bell Wright Society and the Imperial County Historical Society, 1998. Martine, James, editor. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 9, Part 3.
Supplemental Material
The story of Harold Bell Wright's life has been made into a movie, The Miracle of the Ozarks, and can be viewed at the Shepherd of the Hills farm in Branson, MO or can be purchased from the Wright family web site. HBW fans can also register for a free newsletter by e-mailing thefamilyofharoldbellwright@charter.net or maggiewright2@charter.net.
Information on Harold Bell Wright is available on the web. The Harold Bell Wright Society page can be found at http://www.brawleyonline.com/quellen/hbw.html and the Society's e-mail address is quellen@brawleyonline.com. Information on Wright can also be found on the Imperial Valley College web page at http://www.imperial.cc.ca.us/pioneers/hbw-home.html. "The only web site maintained by the Wright family" is http://www.wrightconcept.com/Hbwfam~1.htm.
First edition facts: The advertising campaign for the first edition cost The Book Supply Company $75,000 (in 1911), and the first printing was for 175,000 but kept increasing as advance orders mounted. By November, the initial printing was for a record-breaking 500,000.
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