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Riders of the Purple Sage: Classic Westerns (Paperback)
Riders of the Purple Sage By Zane Grey The events depicted in Riders of the Purple Sage occur between the mid-spring and the late summer of 1871. Early in Riders of the Purple Sage, we are introduced to Jane Withersteen and the main conflict: the right to befriend a Gentile (in Riders of the Purple Sage, the word Gentile is synonymous with "non-Mormon"; the usage was common in the book). This conflict is best demonstrated in the statement: "Jane Withersteen gazed down the wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held her thoughtful and almost sad, awaiting the churchmen who were coming to resent and attack her right to befriend a Gentile." We are introduced to Tull, an elder in the church. It was the wish of Jane Withersteen's father that Jane marry Tull, but Jane refused (saying because she did not love him), causing a string of controversy and leading to her persecution by the local Mormons. Jane's Gentile friend and rider (cowboy) Bern Venters is "arrested" by Tull and his men, including Jerry Card, who prepare to sentence him (Venters). It is not clear under what authority the mob is acting, however. As is common in the genre, it seems that might makes right. Jane continuously defends Venters, declaring him her best rider. Her defense is worth very little to her churchmen, who refuse to value the opinion of a woman, as shown by: "Tull lifted a shaking finger toward her. 'That'll do from you. Understand, you'll not be allowed to hold this boy Venters] to a friendship that's offensive to your bishop. Jane Withersteen, your father left you wealth and power. It has turned your head. You haven't yet come to see the place of Mormon women ...'" It is here where we first hear mention of Lassiter. Venters uses Lassiter's name to express the waves of terror that Lassiter had been known to cause. Ironically, at the moment when Venters mentions Lassiter's name, the actual Lassiter is seen approaching in the distance by Tull's men.